RPGs as Therapy: How RPGs Make Us Better

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain
by Kimberley Wallace
Anyone with an illness that causes chronic pain can tell you one thing: a distraction is always welcome. As someone who suffers from fibromyalgia, a disease that's primary symptom is prolonged pain spread across tender points in the muscles, tendons, and joints, there are many nights I just can't get to bed. And that's only getting to the physical part; your quality of life is affected, and the mental anguish can be just as frustrating as tenderness and pain. It's really difficult to stay positive when you're in so much pain – shackled to your bed, unable to really communicate much with the outside world. I've said it once and I'll say it again: sometimes this disease makes me feel like a prisoner in my room.

"I am no longer just a casual observer watching the ride from the outside; I feel immersed, completely a part of an alternate life that leads me to realize my own strengths."
There has been one saving grace that has helped get me through long nights of the pain: video games. Laugh all you want at the thought of a virtual world eclipsing my real-life problems, but it's important to remember we all need an escape at one point or another. Nobody ever said life was easy to endure, so we must cling to whatever we have that helps us get by. The pull with video games is that they can take me to another a place, another world. The pain is always going to be there, but open-world games allow me a completely new place to explore and get lost in – and maybe give me a short escape. I've especially found this even more apparent when these worlds allow me to create my own characters and be a part of the journey. I am no longer just a casual observer watching the ride from the outside; I feel immersed, completely a part of an alternate life that leads me to realize my own strengths.

Many games have had this important effect on me, but I'm going to focus on this year in particular, when I first journeyed into WRPGs. I know I'm tardy to the party, but better late than never. What WRPGs provided me with was a bastion from my prison of pain. Whether it was breaking up fights between Jack and Miranda in Mass Effect 2 or having a laugh at Varric's witty sense of humor during Dragon Age II, there was something about these games that put me at ease. For a moment, I focus on something other than pain, giving me an oasis from my battle with fibromyalgia. So often, people point a finger at video games for negative aspects; I think it's time we start focusing on the healing that can come from games. In the dark of the night, I don't feel so alone with my pain when I have a video game to turn to that has more depth than what appears on the surface. Because when I create that character and enter that fantastical setting, for a while, I don't have to be the girl who is suffering.

Read More:
Anger - by Robert Steinman Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain - by Kimberley Wallace Catharsis - by Stephen Meyerink Bad Attitudes - by Bob Richardson Depression and OCD - by Kyle E. Miller

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