Gaming with OCD

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Please note: Articles on lived experiences can be a trigger for those with tics, OCD and anxiety disorders. Articles are intended to show we aren’t alone, and that help can improve quality of life.

Do you have strange rituals when playing games that isn’t necessary for the game itself, but more to allow the mind to relax? This may involve doing things in the right order, and involve ‘checking’ compulsions.

The following article is anonymous. The aim is to help people understand how normal certain thoughts are, and to know that professional help can improve daily life.

Hey, I have weird rituals and compulsions when playing video games. They have lasted a long time.

I was 8 years old when I unwrapped my first console at Christmas, an N64/Goldeneye 007 bundle. Genuinely one of my favorite memories was laying eyes on it for the first time, and the hours running around as Bond and roaming Hyrule in Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

However I would soon learn that OCD would be a mission harder than any other, and one that’s lasted the console generations.

The first mission was to switch the console on

For any new game I bought, I had to start in this exact order:

  1. Insert game perfectly without it hitting the edges during insertion
  2. Switch console on with a perfect press or ‘click’ sound
  3. Don’t have an intrusive thought as the game is starting up
  4. Watch every cut-scene in it’s entirety
  5. Don’t press the wrong button or make an obvious mistake before the first ‘checkpoint

Any mistakes here meant I had to switch off the console and start again.

The process wouldn’t feel ‘clean‘ unless I started right from the beginning. This mean pressing the ‘off’ switch and back on, making sure to hear a clean ‘click’.

I added ‘don’t have an intrusive thought‘ in this process as they were always more likely to occur when I am waiting for the game to load. Those few seconds or even minutes felt like forever, and I try to think of other things here to stop any negative thoughts manifesting.

It isn’t unusual for many gamers to experience compulsions when gaming.

A strong desire to start over, or feeling a need to complete things perfectly or 100%, can interfere and make gaming a stressful experience.

I had to do it all perfectly

Something as simple as putting the game in the reader sloppily would make it imperfect. It could also be just stumbling as I walk from the console to the sofa.

Any such mistakes would ruin the experience of starting a new game, and would make me start over.

Making a mistake in-game wouldn’t be failing to land a punch on an enemy, it was more accidentally carrying out a punch at a time it was totally unnecessary.

An unforced error if you will.

This fear of mistakes remained throughout my teens and twenties.

I would get this a lot when playing football (soccer) games too. Losing wasn’t so much a problem, but I couldn’t be interrupted or press anything by mistake.

A mistake here would be to accidentally press ‘shoot’ instead of ‘pass’, or accidentally press pause when I didn’t want to.

Making the first ‘checkpoint’ would be to play my first season game without errors. In other games just getting to the first official checkpoint was a ‘checkpoint’.

An imperfect darkness

Playing a game knowing I had made an error or ruined the order of things was just uncomfortable. There wasn’t a wave of anxiety, more frustration. I just felt something was wrong.

Like a light flashing on a car dashboard I couldn’t ignore the warning forever.

I would later learn this ‘darkness’ is called mental or emotional contamination, and it affects me in other areas of life too.

NOCD describes emotional contamination as:

“a fear that certain people, places, or objects are contaminated, which leads the person affected to believe that they must be avoided or that rituals are needed to avoid negative outcomes.”

I would watch full cutscenes out of fear

I would need to watch full cut-scenes, just in case I might miss something. This isn’t so bad, however if I accidentally skip a cut-scene, I’d have to restart the game, or start from the last checkpoint.

I would need to check the whole scene again to avoid the ‘what if‘ feeling in my mind. This would even be the case in sports games, despite knowing full well there is nothing to miss.

I assume lots of gamers choose to watch these scenes to get the most out of the game. I had to do so to avoid anxiety.

This is when I knew Gaming OCD was a problem.

Even if I watched the cut-scene on a previous play through I had to watch it again. 

I'd carry out checks in open world games

I would have a burning desire to check even the most empty areas of a map. My mind wouldn’t rest unless I went back to check.

Even if I was certain there wasn’t anything to find, this mental itch wouldn’t go away until I did.

There isn’t really an intrusive thought or unwanted outcome in my mind when I do these checks, other than a fear I may miss something important.

The feeling is almost tic like, there is simply an urge or a mental itch to scratch.

This is a three-part series documenting a personal account of mental (emotional) contamination. Click here for time anxiety (part one) and reading anxiety (part three).

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DISCLAIMER: Articles contain lived experiences, but cannot be used to diagnose. Medical advice can only come from trained professionals. 

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Dealing with Disorder was created by a sufferer, struggling to find information to help manage the conditions.