Gaming with Sensory Processing Disorder

For all my life I have had sensory processing disorder (SPD). Writing this I learned that it has changed names since I last checked. SPD used to be called sensory integration dysfunction and it’s how I’ve called it my entire life. But for accuracy’s sake, I’ll use its updated title. SPD is considered a developmental disorder. Often it appears in cases of ADHD/ADD and cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is a disorder regarding how the brain processes sensory input; meaning input from the five senses sight, taste, hearing, touch, and smell. Mainly this manifests in being overstimulated or understimulated by the things encountered in life. Pick your poison, feel way too much or don’t feel enough. As it’s a developmental disorder it starts during childhood but can (and does) last throughout your life. 

I happen to be the type that is overstimulated. Sight, hearing, and touch are the three that are most affected. I could write a whole piece describing how SPD has affected me and still does, how it changed throughout different times of my life, and what type of treatments helped me manage it. Today though, I will be addressing how it affects one of my favorite hobbies, gaming. 

Fun fact, I can’t wear headphones but I can wear earbuds. Weird right? The reason for that is I can’t listen to the same sound in both ears being broadcasted by headphones. Earbuds are the only thing that works because I can always just wear one instead of both. Now if I do make the bad life decision of using headphones or putting in both earbuds while listening to any audio I face the consequences of losing half of my hearing and feeling like I’m underwater. The last time I attempted to was when I was a rebellious middle schooler. I listened to a cd for about 20 minutes and my hearing was wonky for a little over 6 hours. I’m not 100% sure if the same thing would happen today but considering how uncomfortable, scary, and just all around ick the experience was I haven’t tested it since then. So all video games must be played over the speaker for me. This means I be missing out on experiences that are supposedly better with headphones. Not a big deal, just annoying. 

The hardest thing to deal with was the motion sickness. Now thankfully the desensitization process I put myself through worked. It was still a big frustrating hassle. At first, anytime I played a game with a first-person perspective within a half hour it would make me feel sick. After this happened more than once I ended up googling the problem and realized it was motion sickness. It’s no fun dealing with that nausea. There were a few times I would have to stop and lay down with my eyes closed for upwards of 20 minutes, just to make nausea go away. Once I realized this I started doing exposure therapy. I started by watching let’s plays on YouTube of people playing games with the first-person perspective. I would watch until I started to feel sick, take a break, and then resume the video. Once I was able to tolerate the videos playing games became easier. Then I just repeated the process. A couple of months after I began the desensitization process I was able to play games without motion sickness. 

Despite the issues that sensory processing disorder has caused there is one good side effect. Because of my oversensitivity, I am very easily captivating by glowing screens. It doesn’t have to have any sound involved or be displaying anything interesting. Recently I had accidentally stopped and stared at a stranger’s phone in a store. He was showing a friend a video of some sort. One very awkward apology later I realized that I am still just as hypnotized by a glowing screen as I always have been. The upside of this is that my gaming and nerd shows are that much more enjoyable. 

Sensory Processing Disorder is something I will always have, and that’s okay. It means some things affect me differently than a neurotypical person. I know how to manage it now. I can’t imagine viewing the world any other way. At this point, I am content with the knowledge that although my way of experiencing life is different does not make it invalid. It just requires some adjustments from time to time.

*The picture featured in this post was made by Pixabay and was listed on Pexels.com as a Free Use photo.

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