Crossing

I have a booklet here on dealing with fatigue that I’m too tired to read. There’s a part of me that sort of wishes this was a joke but no, really, it’s a lot of pages. That’s going to take effort.

Fatigue is weird. It’s sort of like a tiredness but not. It’s something I can’t just push through as just breathing, sitting up, becomes exhausting. Sometimes the fatigue leads to sleep, sometimes it leads to lying there, kind of waiting for the sensation to pass. When it does pass, which can be minutes or hours later depending, it’s an almost alarming return to getting about and on with my day. Not quite as though nothing ever happened but enough all the same.

It tends to come in phases, I can go a good few weeks without any serious fatigue, I can also go a good few weeks with serious fatigue. Sometimes it’s not weeks, it’s months. That’s just how it is. When it comes, it can often feel like it’s out the blue. It all takes a hold so fast, one minute I’m upright, the next minute I’m lying down.

Only a few days ago I found myself walking to school, as usual, to collect one of the kids and as I made it halfway down the school path I began to feel the telltale signs, the heavy legs, the sensation like your entire being is draining away. Thank everything I had a taxi waiting at the gates, I gather napping on school premises is frowned upon regardless of age or ills.

When the fatigue takes hold, it’s tough to find things to do. My concentration tends to be one of the first casualties, my already scant excuse for an attention span becomes like wading through deep water, grasping for the ability to hold some, any information. My already absurdly poor memory now some sort of brain seive where thoughts just empty away.

So many things that aren’t normally overwhelming become arduous tasks. Silly things like reading, writing, even watching television takes a lot out of me to do.

Lucky I enjoy videogames then, really. I’ve found that’s one thing I can still do, even when the fatigue is at its (waking) worst. I can still play.

Of course, I have to be much more selective. My usual diet of flashy lights and lasers isn’t really a sane option. To be honest, most games I’d normally play aren’t an option when the fatigue strikes. They, generally, ask way too much of me – be it reflexes, reactions, skill or concentration – it can all be a bit too much.

None of this is a complaint or a moan either. This stuff just is what it is. I’ve long grown used to bouts of fatigue having had them pretty much as long as I remember and sure, the gaps between have become shorter and shorter in time (like most of my other ailments, really) but still. I accepted it all a long time ago.

So now I’m often looking for something else in a game. Maybe this sounds daft but I’m looking for a game I don’t mind falling asleep during, I’m looking for a game that doesn’t mind me falling asleep during it. I’m looking for stuff that’s calm, doesn’t tax my brain too hard and well, the only way I can put this is “gentle” – I want it to be stress free and nice wherever it can be. A videogame that ambles is the ideal.

I have found this in odd corners. The niceness of Loot Rascals, the slow travelling between worlds of No Man’s Sky and more recently in the mobile version of Animal Crossing.

It perhaps seems odd to many that I should find comfort in the mobile Animal Crossing when I have a 3DS, I have the full Animal Crossing experience just on a shelf over there. Yet for a game that ambles so, it asks a lot of me. There’s the amount of walking, the amount of talking, the stuff to keep track of. When I’m functioning on some sort of vaguely normal level, it’s a relaxing experience and more to the point, one I enjoy a great deal.

When I’m knackered though? It’s too much.

This is where the mobile version fits into my existence. I struggle to disagree with anyone who calls it a husk of what Animal Crossing is and should be. It is, indeed, so very much a husk of the experience Animal Crossing provides. Yet it’s exactly that which enables me to play it.

When everything aside from selling stuff can be done with little more than a tap, when places, animals, all the interactions are only ever a tap away, it’s a taste of the niceness that surrounds Animal Crossing without the effort.

And sure, sure, the monetisation is a terrible thing. As with Nintendo’s previous mobile foray, Miitomo, it is built upon an economy that feeds the player scraps. It is a game that, in order to engage with it at a reasonable speed, would burn through money in no time were you that way inclined.

I am, thankfully, not that way inclined. It helps that I am so tired. The very idea of speeding things up is just everything I’m not seeking to get from the game. I am here for the gating, I am here for the repetition, I am here for the scant amount of brainpower the game consumes.

With one hand I can shake some fruit from a tree, I can catch fish, I can amble towards a curiously dressed animal and offer them the often literal fruits of my labour. And I can fall asleep halfway through doing it and nobody will care, nothing will happen.

Of course, the same “nothing will happen” can be said of Animal Crossing in its other, more usual forms, but that is not on my phone!

I can’t hold the 3DS stylus comfortably whilst propping my head up in a way that keeps pain to a minimum. Plus with my hands having a tendency to throw things on a whim, accidents will happen. This way I can throw myself down on the sofa, prop my head up with cushions and just play. And if or when I drop my phone, it sinks into a cushion – a far easier find than a DS stylus.

For now, I’m enjoying Animal Crossing:Pocket Camp. I am enjoying this extra life where my days can be spent giving fish and coral to cats, marvelling at whatever Timmy Nook has robbed from the tip to sell today whilst I watch two sheep build a skate park for no real good reason.

I have no idea if this time next week, this time tomorrow even, I will have grown bored of it and moved on. But it’s been a game that’s made the past week nicer. That counts for something.

Actually it counts for a lot. A whole lot. I dunno, it’s 2017 and I can’t get enough nice this year so every little bit helps.