15 April 2017

totally rad

Welcome welcome welcome! Just time for a quick recap of the [indeterminate temporal interval].

On the health front, I've been idling steadily since the last update. The number of dressings per bandage change is gradually reducing, and some days we can skip messing with them altogether, so progress, uh, progresses! Dad's been on the team DL for the past few months, so I haven't been getting up in the chair - not even using the Hoyer lift; there's still too much risk of unintended physical stress for the padre. (Don't worry, he's been surgified and is doing better!) So, it's been plenty of time spent tapping my rather inexhaustible reserve of stuff to do from bedward stance.

In fact, one of my pie-in-the-sky gaming desires has crept into my almost-daily physical therapy routine! As I have rambled at you previously, I have a wonderful custom-built controller that lets me fumble through games outside of my usual pointy-and-clicky slow-paced strategy ability zone. I'm not all that good with Mr. DualSticks: you certainly won't see me mopping up on Call of Duty multiplayer, as I tend to spend most of my time in such games admiring the floors and ceilings. Let's just say I can't do fast-twitch accuracy, considering I'm basically using my shoulder muscles to move the analog sticks. From the time I received the controller last summer through January, I had almost exclusively played racing games and title after title in the Lego series (no, I'm apparently not an adult). However, on a whim and a reco from Madame​ S-Flo, I gave Fallout 4 a go. Sure, it's yet another possibly-jlunplayable first-person shooter, but it's more of a shallow RPG than a fast-paced twitchy murderfest (fine, it is still a murderfest, but with slightly more story glue!), so there was a chance I could die my way through it, pretending to be a real gamer.

You know what? It really does work for me! First of all, it has an extensive and robust cheat console, so I can toggle on unlimited ammo - quite an important option, given my aforementioned proclivity for preposterous pew-pew precision. (For those of you in the "you cheater, git gud or play something easier" camp, stop trying to tell a quad how to enjoy a single-player game already.) The relevant code grants me invincibility as well, but that's more of a side benefit. However, the most useful, quad-friendly game mechanic is a spiff, not-even-cheating function called VATS. VATS is a targeting system (that's the TS, but I'll let you do as I do and make up silly things for what the acronym actually means) that slows time to a crawl and lets you queue up pre-aimed ahots at visible enemies/mines/other blow-uppable stuff. Basically, rather than having to pull off epic fine-tuned sniper headshots on three bad hombres π/e football fields away, you can hit the VATS button, order shots on dudely body parts until you're satisfied, and then hit the "do it!" button and watch the toootally realistic situation play out from fun cinematic camera angles and such. Of course, that gets a bit tedious after a while, so it's admittedly more fun to barge into an area full of rad-baddies and spray 'n' pray with an explodey machine gun every now and then. Or sneak up on a raider and knock her head off with an electric-stun baseball bat, complete with home-run-cheering-crowd sound effects. Yay, encouraged ultraviolence!

Anyway, beyond providing a much-needed variation in my daily quest for bedtertainment - and an entirely-too-rare feeling of doing something dextrous as well as an able-normie, [ir]regardless[ly] of cheats and VATS abuse - my time as a Fallout boy (ugh, sorry) is serving quite the array of physically-therapeutic benefits. Primarily, it's making me bother to do something with my right arm. As an individual of the sinistral persuasion, I arrange my bed-table goodies for left-handed efficiency, with computer controls and medicine bottles in close reach for my dominant hand. As such, my right arm just sort of exists over on the other side. With dual-stick controller time, though, ole righty has an important job! In FO4, as with most shooty-shooty bang-bangers, the right-side analog is used for looking around and aiming. (There are a few buttons to hit sporadically on that side as well, but those are large whackables; the stick is the fine-motor-skill priority. Thanks to accessibility attachments, I can use sip and puff for "interact" and "shoot" - 90% of arm activity is maneuvering the analog sticks.)

Hoo boy, was it a shot across the starboard bow at first! To start, gaming in bed with the controller is already a decent workout - the two halves lie on my bed table in a way that forces me to tilt the bed up (sorry, blood pressure) and hold my arms up and away from my body a little. Huurrrgh! While my left arm is quite toned for that exact stance, its nearly vestigial right counterpart wanted none of it in the beginning. For the first week or two, all I could manage was a play a minute/rest a minute pattern, and only for about an hour before switching to something less demanding. It was pretty brutal. However, after keeping at it for a little while on a daily basis - aw shucks, you mean I have to stop pretending to be an adult and play games every day for my health? - I was able to play for longer periods with fewer breaks. As an added bonus, all that brachial-orientation exercise led me to spend a little less time admiring the cloud animations and floor textures, hehe.

Fast-forward to now, and I can manage at least four hours a day, five days a week (modulo an hour/day or two depending on scheduling and pesky pain patterns). It's still a heavily-medicated adventure, but not significantly more so than non-gaming days... Sure, it's essentially self-mandated playtime, but compared to the utter lack of PT/OT available here to accomplish more or less the same thing, I think it's worth it. I've regained a fair bit of arm strength that I'd lost over the past few years of nothingness, and it's great stress relief! (Turns out post-apocaBoston is happier than the real world some days...) So let's see, price of (admittedly not-cheap) controller plus price of game, versus 20+ hours/week of PT/OT visits plus counselor appointments over four months and counting - hey, if nothing else, I'm getting mediocre treatment at a pretty epic discount, eh?

So there you go. That would be the long version of what I've been to instead of meeting my self-imposed, fantastically arbitrary March post deadline. Oops! If you're paralyzed, have a gaming setup you can operate, and have somehow made it all the way through this ramblefest (or you just skipped down here for a tl;dr), I highly recommend giving Fallout 4 a shot. There are several Fallout-specific mechanics that are extremely handy for those without the best motor skills, and its a fun adventure to dive into for, um, possibly an embarrassing amount of time. If you're wary of the "not as good as previous Fallouts" reviews on Steam and the like, or your computer/console isn't up to the task of running this fairly new game, or you'd rather play in some other post-nuclear location, it looks like Fallout: New Vegas is a winner with most of the same mechanics. I'll probably play that one next, if I ever run out of side missions and am actually forced to finish 4...


  1. I definitely enjoyed FO4, you should try Skyrim (with mods of course), it's quite entertaining!

    1. Heck yes! Skyrim is more likely to be my next controller-based timesuck for various semi-cheaty/semi-variation reasons... First of all, though, it'll be a different universe - different genre, different style, different experience all around. If I dove straight into New Vegas, I think I'd burn out on the franchise (assuming that doesn't happen before I'm done with FO4!) As meta-game details go, FO4 and Skyrim are cut from the same cloth (same dev, same engine, sorta-same development time). For me, that means both have the same crazy-robust console command interface, and the console and mods don't disable achievements. Plus, I know Skyrim's leveling system is weird, but neither game has a level cap. In contrast, FO3/NV have level caps, and console/mods disable achievements. Those are weird things to be worried about, but certain things are important for my method of gameplay.

      The only thing that has me worried about Skyrim is the control scheme. Fallout is simply "point gun, press trigger", but I know Skyrim has two hands to worry about, as well as using weapons and magic. I'd really like to get into The Witcher 3, but after looking at the controls and reading reviews and such, I'm pretty sure that's out of my league (but it does have unrestricted cheats, so who knows ;-) ) Here's hoping Skyrim is manageable, though.

  2. Nice article and very nicely penned