Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can make any game a struggle. We interview a gamer who suffers with server OCD:
We all have our gaming quirks. Completing quests in a certain order. Rooting out all of the collectables long after we’ve completed a main campaign. Restarting a level if we mess up a perfect run. But for some people, these quirks are an everyday struggle. One of my childhood friends, who shall be referred to as DBW at his request, is one such person. As a child, DBW was diagnosed with severe OCD and it continues to profoundly effect his life 20 years later.
“My mum says she first noticed when I begged her to not mix my food on my plate. I would run my finger along the plate between my mashed potatoes and meat and if they touched, I would cry. She had to buy me a bigger plastic plate just to fit my food on. I had all of my LEGO stored away separately by colour. I once spent 3 hours rearranging my wardrobe so that all of the coat hangers faced the same way with the clothes facing to the right. I had to do things in the same order every morning. Wake up. Breakfast. Brush teeth. Wash. Uniform in order. If we ever had to do things in a different order, I would break down and had to take the day off school. The Doctor told my mum I had Autism or Aspergers for years but after seeing a few specialists over the years, they diagnosed me with OCD. The actual OCD and an odd type. Not the “I like things this way” OCD. The “have a meltdown if I can’t find my keys” OCD. Now, I’ve got my own place and everything has its place. I like things how I like them. I have help when it comes to cleaning stuff out though”
DBW’s life is ruled by an unusual type of OCD combining several of the different types of the condition – Compulsion, obsession with symmetry or order and hording. His wardrobe is impeccable, organised by colour and size. Every item of clothing points to the right. Every coat hanger is hung the same way. There are clothes in there he has had since he was 15. He checks that his door is locked several times before leaving his house. He saves every leaflet, take-away menu and junk mail that is pushed through his letter box in a draw in his kitchen. These are also stacked by size and type. Even with OCD effecting almost every aspect of his life in some way, DBW manages to live a relatively “normal” life. He is a successful assistant accountant, goes to every Stoke City FC home game and shares a passion for gaming with his friend.
“I wasn’t sure about playing games at first. I came to it late because I didn’t want them to set me off and I’d seen… I think it was you Sean [Laughter] playing Zool on the Commodore? Or Amiga? I can’t remember. Either Way, the way you were playing made me angry [laughter] (…) You were missing the enemies and jumping past collectables and I couldn’t watch. It sounds bat s**t but when I play games, I must have everything. I can’t and couldn’t just run past things. I played Fire & Ice with you on the Amiga that one time but that was it during my early years”
DBW didn’t play another video game until he was 23 when he was introduced to Ezio Auditore da Firenze and the Xbox 360.
“I was bought an Xbox 360 for Christmas one year. It came with 2 games. Assassin’s Creed II and Far Cry II. I wasn’t sure what to do to be honest. I plugged it all in and set it up and then had this 2 day fear of loading anything up. When I did play it, I played Assassin’s Creed II. I didn’t know anything about it but it was perfect for me. I really enjoyed it, great story, great game play and I couldn’t miss anything. The map would show me where everything was and the only thing I was missing I was the feathers and there was a map I printed from the internet from there. I remember having one mild freak out though. I bought the most expensive sword, the best one, and then one of the heavy guys hit me and knocked it out of my hand. I thought I had picked it up and finished off the fight and it wasn’t until later that I found out I had picked up some other sword. I’d lost my expensive sword. I lost it and shut the game down. I couldn’t believe it. I was distraught and couldn’t process it. I was so close to getting 100% on the game too and it was eating at me. It wasn’t until a few days later when I found out you could go to the Villa and get your weapons back if you’d lost them that I booted it back up again and finished it off.”
Unfortunately, DBW’s pleasant re-introduction to gaming didn’t last long.
“After Assassin’s Creed II I tried out Far Cry II. At first, everything was going well. I was enjoying the gun play and the game looked lovely. Even though there was a lot of collectables and things to do, my OCD was behaving and the map helped a lot. Then… I’m not proud of this by the way… I went to this part of the map and I was collecting the blood diamonds and something glitched. I’d collected a load of them and they hadn’t registered and the number I’d collected wasn’t going up. I checked online and there was a known glitch or something and here was no fix and I was stuck. Some of the diamonds were going to be missing. I wasn’t ever going to get 100% on the game. I lost it and… like I said I’m not proud of this… I took the game out of the Xbox, I picked the Xbox up and I dropped it on the floor and stood on it. I broke it. I couldn’t handle it. I asked my Dad for the receipt and I took the 360 back to the shop and told them that this was how it came and swapped it for a new one. I’m sorry about it. Really sorry and guilty. I’m sure everyone in the shop was like “this has been dropped” but I just couldn’t have that on my console. It was making me bad”
From then on DBW became more cautious of what kind of games he played but, spurred on by his experience with Assassin’s Creed II, continued to try new games.
“After that, It took me a while but it got a lot easier. I got a PS3 too and started cherry picking what I would play. I wouldn’t buy a game when it launched – still can’t – just incase there were glitches that would halt my progress. If there was a game that really interested me, I would look for official guides and buy them too to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I don’t ever play online. It’s too chaotic. I really struggle with big games like Oblivion and Fallout New Vegas. I love the story telling in those types of games but it’s also my worst nightmare in terms of collectables and hording.”
Open world RPG’s can be incredibly difficult for DBW because of his compulsion to collect items. He told me of his difficulty with Fallout 3;
“I’m nowhere near as bad as some of my friends for this but I have to collect things in games. I think games like Fallout and Skyrim helped me curb some of my hording in real life but it was a big problem at first. Fallout 3 was my first Fallout game and I had no idea that it would be like it was. So, each item has a weight and you can only carry so much and I was collecting everything I could to get me through, yeah? Plates. Jugs. Pistols. Just everything I came across, I picked up. Then I became over encumbered for the first time. I slowed down and just strolled around. I figured out that my Strength was tied to how much I could carry so instead of dropping something, I couldn’t do that, couldn’t fast travel, I walked for hours. I walked around trying to do the quests I could that were close and eventually levelled up so I could get stronger and finally walk faster again. That’s the way I played Fallout 3 for a week. Get over-encumbered. Level up my strength. Get over-encumbered. Level up my strength. [laughter] Eventually, and this took so much will power and against everything my brain was screaming at me, I sold some items to a shop. There were 30 odd plates, 10 jugs, so many cans and baseballs. I was the strongest man in the wasteland again [laughter]. Only problem was, a bit later, I found out about a gun that fired all the trash items that I’d sold and it set me off. That was it [laughter] I was gone. Done with Fallout. Done.”
By this point, DBW had learned some new tricks to help him deal with when his OCD affected his favourite hobby that didn’t involve returning his console to the shop, especially when it came to trophies and achievements.
“After I’d freaked out over Fallout 3, I set up a new PSN Profile. I set up a new email address and signed up for PSN again. It meant I got to start again from scratch. It’s trophies and achievements that freak me out more than anything. If I couldn’t get 100% on the game as well as 100% of the trophies, it would eat me up every time I looked at my list. I’ve got 9 PSN profiles now I think. Maybe 10. Once I set up a new one, I’d delete the old one from my PS3. I used to do it with my Xbox as well. I lost count of the number of profiles I set up on there. I remember getting everything in Uncharted 2. I got all of the treasures and completed the game on Crushing and even fought my OCD through 2 online matches to get the Platinum trophy. 100% on everything. Then the very next day, they patched in some new multiplayer stuff and added some new trophies for it. Nope. My 100% was now 80-odd percent and because the trophies were for online matches, I couldn’t get them. Well, I could, but it would be really uncomfortable. I set up a new PlayStation ID [laughter]. It has happened so often like that. Online is a big no-no for me and I know people love trophies and achievements for asking them to do stuff they wouldn’t normally do but for me, that’s a big no-no. When they add new content that is online only with new trophies, I set up a new PlayStation ID. Start again. Start with no trophies.”
With his OCD being so severe, DBW’s favourite games might be surprising but he believes they’ve helped him come to terms with his OCD and in some instances, helped him deal with real world situations.
“My favourite game is Minecraft. I love Minecraft and I absolutely shouldn’t. It’s chaotic and random but I guess it’s because I can re-build everything how I want it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on creative. I struggle on Survival thought. I must have my inventory in order. Blocks on the top row by colour. Items on the second row. Consumables on the bottom row. Half way through a fight or if a Creeper blows up and I survive and I pick things up, I have to open my inventory and sort it out. Even if that means I’m going to die. Peaceful mode is my friend [laughter]. I’m also a big fan of the LEGO games. I first tried the LEGO Star Wars Collection and switched it off immediately after starting [laughter]. I watched some studs blink out of existence and I was gone. Done. It took me months of trying it for just 10 minuets at a time. I’m a big Star Wars fan and I was determined to keep trying and after a lot of trial and error, I got over it. That helped me actually. The more I played the LEGO games and the more I was, like, okay, that you can’t get every stud, the more I was willing to let things go in my life. I’m not saying that LEGO fixed my OCD [laughter] but when I saw the bigger picture, when I was able to get the (True) Jedi awards without every stud, it made me feel a little better about the small things. And the LEGO games have order. They have a way to do things that feels really comfortable to me. I do love games like Assassin’s Creed or that last Far Cry game that are comfy with my OCD though. I know a lot of people hate the maps filled with logos but for me, that’s a dream come true. I paid £2 for the map in the last Assassin’s Creed just so I could get everything [laughter].”
At present DBW feels that his hobby is well catered for and his OCD is well-managed while gaming. He can play many of the new games that are out there at the moment – but he does have some concerns;
“I love gaming but I’m worried that I won’t be able too soon. A lot of games have started to put more online stuff in their games and at the moment, I just can’t do that. I tried Call of Duty and it made me bad. I tried Battlefield and that was worse. Overwatch looks brilliant but I know I can’t play it. I downloaded it during the free weekend and deleted it [laughter]. I was so tempted though. And this year has been full of glitches. I was really looking forward to the new Homefront. It looked like a Far Cry game and I bought it after the first patch and I had to set up a new PlayStation ID the next day [laughter]. I just hope that games start having less problems and glitches because, and I know its annoying for everyone, but for me, it stops me playing all together.”
This interview was edited with the permission of the interviewed.