Having a chronic pain disorder has affected my ability to play games in ways that I never thought possible. Pressing buttons rapidly cramps my hands. Using my mechanical keyboard can give me repetitive strain injury, and can leave me using wrist splints for weeks to recover. Gaming is a huge part of my life, being a gaming journalist and a Twitch streamer. However, it can be a detriment to my health and I have to be careful in the games I play, the choices I make and the equipment that I use so that I have the safest and most comfortable experience possible.
This wasn’t a problem for me a couple of years ago, but I’ve recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I’ve felt the full effects when trying to play MMORPGs. From being able to spam buttons with no problem when playing tanks in World of Warcraft to suddenly feeling exhausted doing the smallest rotations, I’ve had to carefully consider my classes and what is easiest and most accessible for me.
Let’s talk about World of Warcraft first. This was my introduction to MMOs, and was also my introduction when it came to finding my comfort levels – and knowing when to stop. One thing I truly admire about WoW that a lot of other MMOs don’t allow for is the ability to play on a touchpad. I actually adapted to this style of play from the get-go through poverty and not having access to a desk, instead playing WoW on a laptop in my bed. It’s not the best setup, admittedly, but it worked for me. It’s how I fell in love with the game, and I haven’t stopped since.
(Would I perhaps be better at the game if I could play with a mouse as well? Probably. I have tried my utmost hardest to incorporate a mouse into my playstyle, but I find it confusing and stressful, and it just doesn’t give me the level of comfort that using a touchpad does. This is also because I am left-handed, and have played using the directional keys for movement in every game since I was a child. It also accommodated my pain levels, as all of the keys I needed to press were close together.)
This year I finally bit the bullet and tried a new MMO, however. Final Fantasy 14. All of my friends were playing it, and quite honestly I was feeling the fear of missing out. This game has been an absolute game changer for accessibility and my needs as a player with a chronic pain disorder. When I first started, I was daunted by the mouse and keyboard options, seeing how many players struggled to manage three different hotbars. Then, I saw people mention playing it on a controller. The thought of playing an MMO on a controller seemed wild to me, but I was intrigued nonetheless.
Admittedly, it was a little fiddly to get used to, but once I figured it all out, it was a dream. It made playing the game so easy. Suddenly, there was no struggle to move, no cramping in my hands… I could have cried with joy! For once, I wasn’t held back by my disabilities playing a game, and I could fully enjoy it with my friends without worrying. It’s been a joyful experience, and I am so glad that I discovered FF14.
FF14 continues to be a game that I enjoy alongside friends. It has allowed me to connect with people that I haven’t been able to hang out with in a long time and has given me great memories and hours of fun. It has become one of my favourite games and equally has become a great thing for me to stream on Twitch.
Not only has FF14 been a really wholesome experience for me and my friends, it has been a joyful one with the community. Whenever I have explained my situation and why I use a controller, of have asked other players to slow down due to my disabilities or potentially not understanding something, everyone has always been so kind and thoughtful. FF14 has one of the nicest in-game communities that I have ever come across. It makes a huge difference.
Overall, I owe a lot to the MMOs that I have played. They have allowed me to connect with my friends and enjoy gaming together. However, I really owe it to FF14 for bringing me closer to the experience I deserve to have within an MMO as a disabled person.