Written by Denayed, Originally Posted: September 15, 2021

This is the second installment of a new series by Rally’s writers. Each post will bring a different perspective to the intersection of mental disorders and video gaming. These disorders affect everyone in different ways. The writers and their interview subjects do not speak for others, nor do they want to. Their experiences are specific only to them.

I’m going to ask you a few questions like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Be honest!

  1. Have you ever procrastinated on homework? If no, read the sentence again, I said be honest. If yes, go to 2.
  2. Have you ever avoided a task that has been on your calendar for a while, because you know it’s a monster that will take up a lot of time and energy? If no, congratulations! You have a ton of discipline. If yes, go to 3.
  3. Have you ever put off taking care of basic bodily functions, like washing your hair after 6 straight days or using the bathroom when you desperately need to? If no, that’s one less thing to talk to your therapist about. If yes, go to 4.
  4. Have you ever looked forward to the release of a new game for years, pre-ordered it, waited for the download, brought up the menu screen, and then couldn’t bring yourself to actually play the game for months?
  5. Bonus points: When you finally did start, did you either lose interest after 2 hours, or became so immersed that you physically could not think or talk about anything else until you beat the game for good? Even at the expense of your personal and professional life?

If you said yes all the way until the end, welcome to the life of a gamer with ADHD. Maybe you have 2-3 games that have become hyperfixations for years, and everything else just slips through your attention span like sand. Maybe you love jumping from game to game and have hundreds of titles under your belt – but none anywhere near completion. Maybe you’re a bit of both and you’d love to finally 100% a game that you’ve played for years, but all the gather quests and fetch quests are inflating it into a task of Herculean proportions, and you gradually give up.

My first video game was God of War (2005), played an hour at a time at my cousin’s house over summer break. Whenever he wasn’t using his PS2, I clambered into his room and sunk deeply into the world of Kratos, Athena, and Ares. Sadly, there are limitations to being a 10-year-old whose parents didn’t believe in video games, and I never finished the game. However, my obsession with it snowballed into an overarching obsession with Greek mythology (yes, I was that kid), and because my parents never allowed a console under their roof, I gobbled every Greek mythology-related book and movie I could find. When I finally left home and earned enough money to buy my own console, I bought an Xbox; in retrospect, this was perhaps not the move for someone with a PlayStation exclusive living rent-free in their head.

All through college I had friends offer to lend me their consoles so I could experience the rest of the franchise, and I kept turning them down, because at this point, it was too daunting of a task. It was a task that had an expiration date in my mind, even if it didn’t in my heart. To this day I tell people that God of War was the video game that had the most influence on my life, and to this day, I haven’t finished playing it.

Simultaneously loving a game and not wanting to play it is a very strange experience. Unlike depression, ADHD doesn’t cripple my interests by taking the joy out of them. I can hold a hyperfixation and chatter about it all through the week, only not to touch it at all when I finally have free time on the weekend. I didn’t forget about it. In fact, it was the only thing I thought about. But I never ended up doing it. Why?

If I had an answer, I probably wouldn’t have a standing psychiatrist appointment. Instead, I’ll write down my thought process.

Okay. It’s Friday afternoon. I’m gonna drive home and sit on the couch and play Civ 6 all weekend because I can. Religious victory, here I come. Wait, I have to clean the litter box first. Then I promised someone I’d FaceTime tomorrow. Ugh, that’s going to take up my entire weekend. I should eat first. Maybe I’ll play Hades instead, that won’t take as much time as Civ and I can stop whenever I want. Yeah, that’s good, gonna grind Hades. Definitely going to clear it with the Spear this time. Damn, that litter box stinks. Is it 4 AM already? I need to text my friend and make up an excuse for why I can’t FaceTime them. What if I just ignore their call and say I was charging my phone in another room? Did I charge the Switch? Nope, need to charge the Switch. I can totally make food while that happens…but I’m going to finish that Glee episode that I started. Okay, I finished the season. I need to toss the laundry in to feel productive. The Switch is charged! Load Hades. Before I start, I need to look up every boon strategy for clearing a Spear run. Oh, my duo is on Discord, I should probably respond to them. Do I have anything microwaveable in the fridge to eat? I’m going to clean this litter box if it kills me. Right, I have time to at least try a quick Spear run. I really don’t want to rush this though, I want to devote actual effort…but I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that? God, I left the laundry in the washer overnight. I can’t do this, I need to wake up early for work tomorrow morning.

Maybe you read that and thought, “There was totally enough time to do that over one weekend? She could have played both games? Wait, did she end up eating?” Unfortunately, she did not end up doing anything at all. ADHD is a disorder that disrupts executive function, the cognitive process that lets you choose and carry out goals. In my life, it doesn’t discriminate between tasks I don’t want to do and tasks that I do. All tasks are simply items on an endless mental checklist, and the longer something has been on it, the more intimidating a task it becomes, even if it’s only “replace toilet paper roll”. That task may as well hold the same weight as “write 30-page single-spaced graduate-level thesis”.

To be honest, this wasn’t the direction that I intended to take this post in. There’s so much more I could write on how ADHD interacts with video games, from the dangers of dopamine fishing to why simulation games scratch ADHD brains just right. Every time I typed a sentence in this post, I backtracked and rewrote because I wanted to take you guys through the bigger picture. I wanted to explain how I arrived at each thought, because I’m used to defending how I think in real-life conversations. For now, I’ll leave you with this: the next time you’re wondering if your duo with ADHD is avoiding you because they think you’re a scrub, don’t worry. They’re still mustering the effort to open your message from two days ago.


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