Mario 64 was the beginning of the end.
When my little brother got an N64, I was pretty darn excited. I’d loved playing video games for years and years. On computer, Game Boy, Nintendo, Super Nintendo. It had all been great.
So naturally, N64 was very exciting to me. It was a bigger game than I’d ever seen. Looking back on those graphics now, they’re blocky, polygonal. A bit clunky and dated.
But back then, they were cutting edge. It was a 360-degree environment. And physics like you’d never seen before. You could wander through sprawling environments, running and jumping, and “woohoo”ing Mario style.
It was expansive and overwhelming. I watched my brother in rapt fascination.
Then he offered me a chance to play.
And so I did.
And not even 10 seconds later, as I began to navigate Mario through the virtual environment, it hit me: A huge wave of nausea.
Oh God. I was getting motion sick.
I’d try many times over the coming weeks and months to play this game, and every time the same thing would happen. I’d immediately get motion sick.
Since 3D games were the wave of the future, more came out every day. And each time, I’d try, no matter what system they were on, to play them.
And every time I’d play a 3D game, I’d quickly become motion sick.
Forced to Be a Spectator By Something I Couldn’t Control
The old 2-dimensional games were fine. Sprite graphics. Flat environments.
But I was quickly finding that I couldn’t play the vast majority of new games coming out. Instead, I was forced to be a spectator.
And it was strangely devastating. I’d never really considered “gamer” part of my core identity — these were the days before the Internet, and I had no idea how many other people out there like playing video games. If anything, it was something I was slightly closeted about. I loved video games but assumed it made me kind of a dork. So it was something I didn’t talk about much, other than to my brother.
I quietly played video games to unwind. It was something I did to relieve stress. Different than writing or playing music, activities which gave me joy but I viewed at the time as more productive and more… justifiable somehow.
Video games were like junk food I ate in secret.
And now I was finding that I physically couldn’t play most of them.
I responded by replaying all of my old favorites. I stopped paying much attention to new games that were coming out, because I was tired of getting excited and finding that playing them made me ill. When I’d go on to eventually date a gamer, I’d watch him play the games that made me sick. And he’d basically screen them for me to see how spinny they were and try to determine if I could actually play them without getting sick.
Making the Most of a Situation I Wouldn’t Have Chosen
That’s basically how I still manage things. I’m married to someone who, unlike me, can play 3D games without getting sick. He’ll play them on the living room TV a lot, and I’ll play along with him. He’s driving, but I can always ask questions or make input about where we go next.
And instead of this limitation being frustrating, it’s actually kind of fun now. Sure, I can’t play certain games on my own. But it’s now a fun thing we can do together. It’s frankly something I don’t know if I ever would have done if I didn’t have this “limitation.” I probably would have played those games on my own. And never really seen the social potential or know how fun that “backseat playing” a game could be.
I Love Helping a Partner Transform a “Weakness” Into a Strength
Relationships can sometimes be like that. They can bring out hidden weaknesses… things that could maybe be limitations when you’re trying to manage things on your own.
But interestingly, those weaknesses, those vulnerabilities, have a way of transforming into the place where you bond with another person. Where they start to matter less, because you have someone in your life who can help you manage them, work around them, and maybe even transform them into something that doesn’t frustrate you but could even give you joy.
And I’ve always found it beautiful when I’m on the other side of it. When I can help someone rawk out their “limitations.” When they find themselves transformed. Vulnerable but not lesser for it.
It’s arguably my favorite thing about relationships.