My Favorite Game of 2020 Required Focus I Didn't Think I Had

In the middle of a morning sometime in 1994 or 1995, as my class was being brought in for recess, something odd happened. We were lined up in the long front hallway that led past the K-3 classrooms while the usual roll was taken, but this time the school nurse came out and gave one of my friends a pill in a white paper cup. She made sure he took it, then we all trooped back to our classroom. Afterwards I asked my friend what the pill was. He said it was for the way he acted in class ("It’s to make me less hyper”), but didn't think it did anything. Then he let me on his real plan: to start selling the pills to high school students as soon as they stopped making sure he was still taking them. Meanwhile, he continued to be a master of juvenile chaos.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/dy84pa/rob-zacny-games-of-the-year-2020
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Great piece. It’s not the only piece I’ve read that resonates with me as familiar, in terms of my own ability (or lack thereof) to manage focus. I was intending to speak to my doctor about it last year, but a plague cancelled my appointment. In the mean time, I can see the challenges at least one of my kids are having. Writing like this is brave, honest, and super important to people like me, who need that little extra push that Rob gave himself to see that maybe our issues aren’t just personal failing…

I haven’t played most of the games on this list, but I did want to mention my appreciation for SW: Squadrons. I haven’t played a whole lot of it (at some point in the future I will own a VR capable PC, and I’m kind of partly holding it off for whenever that is). Still, it’s a wonderfully crafted thing. I love how they’ve integrated and expanded on the power management system for the X-Wing games.

Each of your three systems can be overcharged by moving all your power into it. Overcharged lasers hit harder and fire longer. Overcharged shields can take quite a bit more fire. Overcharged engines fill a boost meter that can be spent for greatly increased speed and rapid turns. Each system takes a little time to overcharge, and the overcharge will drain out if you move the power somewhere else. Meaning that managing your power is not just a case of ‘what do I need now?’ but also ‘what will I need soon?’. This has the effect of making pilots with a sound tactical sense tougher, faster and harder hitting, which is a lovely piece of design.

Also bonus marks for making ship customisation both meaningful and expressive, where you really can set up loadouts for different roles and playstyles without anything feeling mandatory.

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Welp, that affected me a lot more than I expected it to. Another thing to add to the “When I can afford therapy” list in my bullet journal.

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This is an incredible piece, maybe Rob’s best.

I can’t play Souls because of literally the opposite problem. I too focus way too much on games. As a matter of fact, I cannot put down a game if a boss is beating me. There’s gripping and then there’s when it becomes obsessive t the point of near physical pain, like somebody is putting a vice to my skull. I can actually feel pressure in my brain. It’s why I couldn’t give up on Yakuza 7 despite the ending bosses of that game being absolute bullshit and no fun.

That can be the best feeling in the world if its a game I am loving, like say Celeste and it’s the most intense jumping acrobatics you can imagine. Or a really solid fast Kingdom Hearts boss.

But if every damn step of the game is that feeling, I can’t. Just can’t. That’s overdosing on my brain’s own biochemistry.

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Yeah. I’m pretty sure I have undiagnosed* ADHD, too. I actually can afford therapy and a few years ago was seeing a therapist for anger management and depression. I was listening to a different podcast (This Week in Blackness) where one of the hosts talked about getting an ADHD diagnosis as an adult and his experiences really sounded familiar to me.

So I asked my therapist to refer me for an ADHD screening as well and she gave me the contact info for a medial group that treats it. I did some signup thing online, and they were supposed to call to ask follow-up questions. They called during my daily standup at work. I called back afterward, but they said they’d have to reschedule the phone screening. They called back the next day during my daily standup again. I called back again and they once again said they’d have to reschedule the phone screening. They called back during my daily standup again, and I just gave up on them.

It’s so fun trying to get mental health care. So, so fun.

* I distinctly remember my elementary school principal calling my parents in for a meeting where he suggested that I should look into getting treated for ADHD. I only know that’s what they discussed because my shitty dad – who himself had undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but that’s a whole other thing – was furious about it afterwards.

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Ughh, I’m sorry. That sounds ridiculously frustrating, both the exhausting inaccessibility of getting a diagnosis now and how close you could’ve been to getting one earlier. I hope it works out better next time you feel able to try.

It’s only coming back to me now, but I remember getting some vague tests done at secondary school that meant I got some extra time in exams, but I don’t remember anyone telling me why I was flagged for that, or what it meant that I got the extra time. I think I just thought of myself as overly perfectionist or something, and that the extra time meant I didn’t have to be quite as worried about the 10 minute periods my attention would drift entirely. HUH.

Mental health care in the UK is very locally based, so it’s a bit of a dice roll as to whether you’re somewhere with decent provision, but it’s rarely good. I’ve been on a counselling waiting list for somewhere between 2-3 years, but I’m not deemed high priority, so I’m never getting to the top there. Feeling optimistic on the job front though, so hopefully something paid is within reach. Love 2 go private…

I’ve been lucky in that, if I do have ADHD, it’s the kind that permits hyper-focusing on certain things, and academic tests are one of the things I can actually focus on, at least in general. I was one of those kids who always had stellar standardised test scores but a less impressive GPA, just because I’d blow off homework and projects even for classes I liked. One time, for my Operating Systems class, I missed turning in an entire project that was like 1/4 of the grade or something. We had a month to work on it, and I just completely forgot about the due date until a couple of hours before class.

Anyway, yeah, hearing people talk about their ADHD diagnoses and finally getting treatment as adults is one of those things that just hits me with visions of multitudes of alternate lives I could have had, like some Paul-Muad’Dib shit. I like my current life just fine, but there are so many doors I shut for myself and friendships I can barely remember now because I wasn’t fully present for them at the time.

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The possibility of an ADHD diagnosis opening me up to more of those feelings isn’t too appealing, as I’m pretty prone to them already, ahah. Though I do find that looking back over years of journal entries and realising that wistful regret seems to be a constant, whether it’s warranted or not, does lessen its strength. A small consolation on more material fronts though, I guess.