I went back through my blog this evening, after looking for writing prompts elsewhere. It’s often about day five or six of Nano Poblano that I hit a wall, at least in recent years. Today, on day five, I’ve had a good day. But I couldn’t think what to write.
I woke up and ate a crumpet with peanut butter and raspberry jam, drank a few cups of oolong chai from one of my favourite places to buy tea blends, and spent a bit of time playing Cozy Grove. I’m almost at the finish line with all the main spirit bear stories, and almost halfway with some of the new neighbears from the add-on, it makes much more sense if you’re playing!
Feeling curious, I picked up my husband’s Switch this summer and have completely monopolised it since. I mean, luckily he doesn’t mind and bought himself a Switch lite – I think he’s actually happy I’m into gaming again as he loves games. I started with playing Spiritfarer, moved on to Calico, then played Unpacking – all recommended! There was a sale this summer so many digital games were half price or less. I’ve also noticed that more independent games tend to be cheaper.
Then Cozy Grove came along and at last count I think I’m over a hundred days in, with a few breaks here and there. It’s a life-sim game about camping on an island haunted by spirit bears, and you are a spirit scout, tasked with helping the bears to resolve their unfinished business or confront their hurts in life and move on.
It has around 90-100 days game play in the original game, but it’s set up to only have about 30-60 minutes of actual game play a day, and the rest is resource collecting, buying and selling, farming and planting flowers, bushes, and trees, and feeding your animals to harvest valuable essence. Honestly, it’s very cute and spooky and I’ve enjoyed the stories and bringing life to the island.
A long time ago, I had a Game Boy Color, a purple one. I wasn’t heavily into gaming, but I did enjoy it. I stopped gaming because I found the Playstation games and controllers intimidating, especially because I just didn’t find myself that interested, at least not a few years ago. But Dan also started to play indie games and I found myself interested in some of the concepts and artwork.
He also got into Steam which is an excellent platform for indie game creators. Fast forward a few years and he bought Spiritfarer on Xbox and I was really interested in it. We didn’t get a Switch until last year, unlike many people during 2020 when Animal Crossing was so popular – besides, I think they were sold out at one point.
My point writing about this is that I didn’t imagine I would become interested in gaming again, let alone dive into playing and enjoying multiple games. It’s been a catalyst to understanding a little more about myself and how my interest-based AuDHD nervous system and brain work.
That need for dopamine and being motivated by novelty means something like gaming is very attractive and rewarding. I’ll admit that I like shiny things. I like colour and pattern and art and visual stimulation. I also find I pick things up very easily once I gain confidence – I like to teach myself how to do things in my own time, rather than being pressured to.
I also love stories and new ideas, my brain soaking things up. I think being autistic too, I have long term loves and interests that stay with me, but the ADHD means I also seek newness, whether learning new skills or just something interesting. It has gotten me into a few tricky situations before – particularly with money, but I learnt from that early on and have become a lot better at budgeting and money management.
This is often why ADHDers may struggle with addiction and risky behaviours, because seeking that dopamine and keeping interest in life means we may become painfully restless.
Looking back at older blog posts, there are a few things apparent to me now – that I’ve struggled with interest and consistency because of executive functioning, writing about productivity and trying new routines, and that my long gaps in blogging and writing often coincide with when I’ve had burnout or depression. When I come back I usually feel like I have to start again, and that pattern is also there with other things in my life.
A constant sense of needing to start again, to pick up the threads. When I think about that, I wonder if it’s because I’ve been using systems or ways of thinking that don’t really work for the kind of brain I have. If I have to force myself to do something, my interest wanes, to the extent that it can be painful. With writing, that can be a huge barrier to creativity and clear thinking.
Gaming has taught me a few things. One, that I like specific kinds of stories and creation – I like games to be somewhere between life-sim, adventure, a dash of spookiness, and uncovering of mysteries. A lot of the games I like so far have animals or cats in them somewhere too!
It has also shown me that I will persevere with things even when the initial dopamine reward wears off, especially if I’ve invested a lot of my time into something. I’m not big on platforming (unless brief) as I find it anxiety inducing, and games with a lot of violence and guns really aren’t my thing, unless fantasy themed, for example lightsabers!
But I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that gaming has helped me see myself a little more clearly, and allowed me to take more joy in the things I love that I’ve felt I had to mask to fit in to ‘adult’ society. Masking and changing behaviour is obviously something people do to varying extents, especially in professional settings or with people you don’t know well, or in situations where you might make yourself overly vulnerable by unmasking, or being too open.
But masking yourself so much, especially when neurodivergent, can only lead to identity crises and pain, and in my case I think 2020 was the point I realised something needed to change, which is why I sought therapy. Late diagnosed adults have a lot of unpacking to do sometimes, and re-evaluating the way we do things takes some time.
Essentially, picking up gaming has shown me that I need to find a sweet spot between novelty, challenge, and creativity. If I enjoy the kind of gaming where you create environments and also follow a story, then I need to find a way to make a life that feels infused with creative play and opportunities to learn new things. If I’m enthused by fantasy settings and mysteries, why can’t I find a way to add more of that to daily life and my work?
‘There’s room for everybody on the planet to be creative and conscious if you are your own person.’ – Tori Amos.
This post is part of NanoPoblano, a Cheer Peppers production! If you’d like to see what other people are writing and sharing, please click the image below.