[Wildstar] Of Unexpected Turns and Raiding Pains

My recent blunders into Wildstar’s raiding scene were more of a happenstance than anything, a surprise to myself first and foremost. At the end of 2013 my plans for this year were quite clear: play TESO, ignore Wildstar. Fast forward, I find myself not only among few remaining bloggers in our blogosphere still subbed to Carbine’s MMO, but attuned to raids and geared for endgame. I’ve written about my first raiding experiences here but having gone through a streak of heavy back pains these past weeks, I’ve decided to put an early end to a raiding career that I never meant to have. Too scary is the prospect of another episode of what I have come to call my “post-WoW raider back” since I left WoW in 2010.

A passage dearly paid.

Not many MMO raiders and ex-raiders (myself included) speak of whatever physical backlash, temporary or permanent, they may have experienced due to their focus on top tier PVE/PVP endgame. I’m not saying that every MMO player or raider is like me in terms of poor posture control, but I suspect that there are many among us who come to know such side-effects after reaching a certain age latest. If you’ve raided in a competitive and dedicated manner consistently over several years, it’s hard to avoid any form of physical repercussion for so much sedetary amusement. I remember a time when my youth would cradle me in blissful ignorance of such concerns, yet after I had turned 28 years old with five years of WoW raiding (12 hours a week on average) on my literal back, the physical reality of my hobby caught up with me. I’ve always had issues with my neck but from that point in time my back pains took a life of their own and spread to the rest of my body in one neurological fun fest.

Combined with was generally a deeply troubling and stressful time in my life, a fact that must be emphasized, my unhealthy way of slouching through long-session gameplay (during which I ignored all warning signs for lack of judgement) turned into a chronic pain condition that, after the usual series of medical examinations, is fair to say will never leave me. After quitting WoW and spending considerably less focus time in front of the computer, as well as regular massage therapy and healthier living, I’ve been able to recover slowly from the more acute and crippling pains that used to overshadow my life for at least three full years. I know I have partly my lack of discipline to blame – I have never been great at self-control when it comes to the things I love doing (and I am hardly a sports-fan either). I also realize that many people gamers or not, deal with backpains which are always multicausal; in a way, what happened five years ago opened my eyes to a variety of issues I had ignored for too long in my life. Treating myself better in every sense was one consequence, so in retrospective I’d like to see my time spent raiding as a catalyst, rather than the root cause of all the pain.

Nonetheless, my gametime is something I will always have to control in the future, no matter how tempting some aspects of MMOs might be. I’ve tried the whole “getting up during biobreaks”- and “loading-screen workout”- routines and for me, they simply don’t work. I can spend half a day casually at the PC, blogging, podcasting and carousing Steam, but raiding puts me into a state of emergency in which I grow tense and too absorbed to notice lousy posture. I don’t think there’s any gaming activity quite like online coop when it comes to demanding exceptional focus from each individual. If you ever get up from such a session and feel the pang in the back of your neck, don’t ignore it.

Alas, I have been there, done that and no epic pixel nor fleeting friendships were worth the physical pain that was caused or amplified. I love MMOs and the competitive aspects of online games but if beating endgame and obtaining shinies require me to sit still and focus in front of a screen for 3-4 hours on end, then I am happy to leave such feats to a younger generation – a generation hopefully wiser than me. Hindsight is 20/20 – and the story of how much their bodies must hurt is never told in Surrogates or similarly intriguing movies about virtual life.

Thus my raiding chapter for Wildstar is officially closed.

23 comments

  1. This year has been the worst for my back, and truthfully I never really looked at gaming a to blame. Probably some is though. I have been doing yoga, eating right, and working out (non-impact) and after dropping 25 pounds and focusing on stretching (often), I have come full swing. I couldn’t get out of bed without extreme pain 5 months ago (and for a year prior).

    It’s adjustable – keep working at it! And hopefully when you do raid you sort out how to do it pain free and posture positive.

    1. I don’t think gaming is the only factor but it doesn’t help to ignore your pain during gaming sessions the way I have. The sins of our youth. Sometimes I wonder if I could’ve prevented some of it but coulda woulda shoulda….

      It’s definitely an overall health thing and the bad streaks are less often nowadays, as long as I’m being smart and sticking to what’s good for me. I don’t think raiding is among these things but I can happily do without it tbh. I had my raiding fix in WoW. It’s just not worth going there for me. It’s great to hear you were able to improve your own state. :)

  2. The big change I made to my computer time this year is that I got a standing desk. Mine has a treadmill, which I turn on for casual stuff and which I turn off during raids. No more slouching because no more sitting. I had to adjust the rest of the ergos too of course but I’m very happy with my new setup. My posture is better, I’m less sedentary at home and more active doing something I actually enjoy. I’d encourage anyone who wants to make a change to look into it.

    1. That sounds great! I have ofc thought about a standing desk but so far it wasn’t an option and also rather expensive. That said, some things are too important, so as soon as I’m in the new apartment (planning to move soonish) I should probably go back to it. I intend to play games for another 50+ years after all! :D

      1. If you know a decent carpenter, you might be able to get risers for the desk you own now. This link https://twitter.com/rowanblaze/status/527086795016925185 (hopefully that works) shows my standing desk at work: basically two plywood boxes with a wooden cross beam to stabilize them. Just make sure the risers put your desk at a comfortable, well-postured position. I still have my chair for occasions when I want or need to sit down. At home, I lounge on the couch with a modified shelf board for a lap desk, which, though comfortable is not ideal. But I rarely have severe back pain despite having strained it several times. I think my constant shifting/walking at work (it’s easy to step away from my desk) helps with that.

      2. That looks good Rowan! I think after moving to a new place soonish, I’ll look into my options. I’m a bit picky when it comes to looks (silly, I know), I’d like to keep it as non-chaotic as possible hehe.

  3. Some kids can still have Super Frosted Sugar Bombs for breakfast (raiding), but they need to be part of a balanced breakfast (non-raiding). Or at the very least, the cafeteria needs to offer tamer options like Frosted Sugar Bombs (entry-level group content) and Sugar Bombs (e.g. FF14’s “Light Party”) and maybe even some regular Muesli (I’m running out of metaphorical steam).

    1. Hehe indeed, variety is good. I don’t begrudge anyone their sugar bombs either but for me, they’re simply not an option. It’s a bit like an alcoholic can’t have ‘a bit of alc’ – I can’t control my raiding slouch, so better stay off altogether.

    1. Now I need this about 6 times the size ;) There’s no way I could be comfortable with such little space, especially for keyboard and mouse.

  4. Dang, that really sucks! I used to have mild lower back aches after gaming, but changing the chair I was sitting in alleviated most of the problem, along with reminding myself to lean back into the seat rest more, rather than slouch forward.

    I hear ya on the involuntary and subconscious muscle tensions though. Not so much gaming for me, but at my old job during busy stressful periods, I’d develop some severe headaches that were almost migraine-level. I suspect but could never prove that this was subconscious tensing and forward slouching and bad posture and all that.

    I finally started getting a clue regarding a possible cause when my new workplace decided they’d change all the desktop computers and issue us temporary laptops during the changeover. One week into using the laptop, whose screen was a lot lower than a desktop’s monitor, and I had a blinding headache and nausea and threw up by the end of Friday (though some bad food might not have helped either.)

    It then occurred to me that the much lower screen was forcing me to bend my neck downwards, and possibly constricting the nerves or blood flow into the brain. I hastily rigged up something to raise the laptop to a comfortable level (thick books and files are your friend here) and so far so good, less muscle tension and no headaches.

    1. I have it at work sometime too but as you say, only during very busy times. Most days I try to get up often, to go to the printer or get a drink etc. Screen position is definitely a factor too as well as keyboard & mouse position.

    1. I never actually had issues with my hand but I have one of those jelly-mousepads – not sure it has any effect though!

  5. I’ve had physical ailments due to long sessions in front of a computer, but that’s come from work more than anything else. Any developer or IT person who spends hours in front of a computer has stories about people who have severe injuries from working feverishly for 10-12 hours a day. And of course, there’s Cynwise, who had to reduce game playing entirely due to injuries.

    I know what you’re going through, and that’s not a lot of fun at all. That you were able to cut it off before any more damage is a good thing, Syl, even though you feel the tug at raiding once more.

    1. Yeah :) The monster inside reared its ugly head for a minute but pain is such a great common sense motivator….

      I have an office job myself but I could never ever work as a coder or desginer; the few times I’ve done similar work on webpages in the past were an absolute killer. It’s the exact same absorption as with raiding for me.

  6. That’s a real shame – I have to admit that this is the first I’ve heard of raiding in specific causing health problems like that. Do you think you’ll continue playing Wildstar without being involved in raids?

    1. I suspect that some gamers don’t like feeding the negative image further by sharing stories like that, for fear of it getting intepreted in extreme ways. I certainly never speak about it either, this is literally the first time ever. :)

      I am still subbed to WS until January and I definitely wanna see the content dumps go live. It’s a cool game and as long as I don’t overdo it, I can keep playing games without issue. That’s why it’s so important I don’t ruin it for myself – I would hate not being able to play games ever again omg! -.-

  7. I’ve suffered with my back at times over the years too, all weekend WoW gaming sessions certainly didn’t help. Funnily enough some friends were talking about standing desks on Facebook only a couple of days ago.

    I think it’s probably better to step away from computing completely and do something more active than to get a desk that’s more ergonomic. I’ve been at a conference for the last week and a half and have done a lot of standing up – it may not have harmed my back but my feet certainly aren’t happy about it. So having a standing desk would probably be trading one ache for another in my case! ;-)

  8. I have had a standing desk as well and this was of limited success. I found that a earthing/grounding mat stopped the pain in its tracks. Getting up and walking around in conjunction with this unlocked the back a bit.

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