By Courtney Cole

From 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday, our little one bedroom apartment in Seattle is converted into office space. My partner and I both do digital work – he’s a social media manager, and I’m a video editor. Some days, I hardly see him at all until dinner time despite being in the same 600 square feet all day long. 

In fact, since the pandemic, the lines between work and personal time have become blurrier by the day. There seems to be this attitude of “Well, we know you’re home. What else are you going to do?”. With this attitude comes more late night emails, more after hours requests. As a result, it starts to feel as if we can never escape work. 

Perhaps this is why after work and on weekends, my partner and I cozy up in our living room and escape to other worlds through our television screen. Since the pandemic, we’ve been doing a lot of gaming together. Most recently, we wrapped up Luigi’s Mansion 3 – a perfect game for the spooky Halloween season. I highly recommend this game for its fun story and beautiful aesthetics. You can play it single-player, but it’s much more fun with others. 

Gaming hasn’t just recently become part of our relationship though. It was a fun way for us to connect as a long distance couple for the past two years before we moved in together. Since we both happen to be disabled, our gaming experience might be a little bit different than average: I’m legally blind and he has cerebral palsy. His disability causes dexterity limitations, and his mental and visual processing work differently which sometimes have an impact on his gameplay. In basic terms, my disability means that I see through a very small area. 

My legal blindness also means that I’m a bit more selective about the games I play. My eyes have a hard time with things that are extremely dark or have poor contrast so games like those in the Call of Duty franchise don’t work. Games where things are heavily based on speed and timing don’t work well for me either – for example, Super Smash Bros.  Despite Smash being difficult for me to play, Nintendo games often work well for me because of the high contrast and bright colors. This helps me keep track of my character, enemies, and items on the screen. 

I also love the fact that Nintendo controllers often have motion control capability and vibration feedback. A good example of the vibration feedback being helpful is Mario Kart Racing. It lets me know a lot of different things, like when another player crashes into me or I bump into something.

Co-op games, too, are helpful because my partner and I can play to each other’s strengths and work together. It makes the game more accessible for me because he can point out things that are visually difficult for me, and I can contribute my affinity for creative thinking since he has more of a practical mind. It’s such a fun experience that leads to many laughs and takes us away from the overwhelming chaos that is going on today. 

As someone with mental illness, maintaining my mental health can be hard work, and the pandemic has made it even more challenging. Gaming has been a great therapeutic outlet that recharges me so that I am better able to face reality. It doesn’t fix my problems – but it’s a source of self care that helps fill the void of other activities the pandemic has taken away.

Some might think that gaming isn’t an activity that would bring people together, but it can be. When you’re working together to solve a problem and enjoying immersion in a story together, it really is quality time. This is especially true during the pandemic when spending time with people in person isn’t always possible, and many of us are stuck within the same four walls for long periods of time. Gaming has received bad press in regards to its impact on mental health – many times its been labelled as an isolating activity. But that’s not always true. Gaming has been a rejuvenating and positive experience for myself and my partner during the pandemic. Playing video games has allowed me to take time for myself and my relationship during this pandemic. It might work for you too. Find games that bring you joy and fun, and if you can, play with those you love. You might be surprised at the positive impact it can have.