Video Games as Mind and Physical Hand Rehabilitation? Sure.

I cannot say I play video games as much as I used to decades ago, but I have indulged occasionally over the last few years. I spent countless hours decades ago playing, for example, Lara Croft with my sister, who somehow always managed to get past difficult parts on the first try (and was not a gamer!). At the same time, I would fail miserably after trying dozens of times). We had fun getting involved in the stories and commenting out loud on all kinds of things – from outfits to screenplays and the absurdities of some scenarios. To this day, quoting some lines or vocalizations from those games, we instantly know what they refer to. Good memories.

In recent months, unable to use my hands (one because of a persistent tendon issue, the other because recovering from fractures) as I wanted to, I started alternating the boring ortho rehabilitation exercises with trying to keep my mind distracted while still gently moving my hands and promoting their flexibility by tiny steps. I wanted something that would not keep me glued to the screen for hours but could be enjoyable in short bursts. I browsed through my Steam library, which had gathered electronic dust, so to speak, to find something suitable. Of course, I had missed a long list of game releases (some happily so), but a few stood out.

The first was Creepy Jar’s “Green Hell,” a survival game in the Amazon rainforest. Adjusting settings to eliminate all violence, the game focuses on a journey to survive while bringing back a possible vaccine or cure. The scenery is breathtaking. One sets their own pace, builds shelters, hunts, gathers, and relaxes in a spot of their own choice throughout the vast maps provided. The second is “The Last of Us,” created by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment, described as “an action-adventure survival horror game set in a post-apocalyptic United States ravaged by cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus in the genus Cordyceps.” I see a trend in my choices.

My mind distracted, and my hands getting the gentle but continued coordination exercise they needed, I came across the made-for-tv adaptation of “Last of Us” on HBO. The plotline is identical, but the character development and backstories differ. It is not a matter of liking one over the other. It combines the two screenplays to offer alternatives, or parallel stories, to the personalities involved. The PC game (no consoles here, old school) is hands-on though linear. Attention to resources in non-linear places may save your character’s life in combat. The TV series keeps you watching without wanting to miss a beat (see the video game trailer vs. the TV series trailer at the end of this post). In either version, there is hope for humanity, both individually and socially, perpetuating resilience and care over apathy and fear. And that invites you to grin and bear whatever gets thrown at you – in the end, and it is worth it.

Side note: I am a genexxer, and it may be a surprise that I do not play solitaire or backgammon while sipping lemonade. I cannot count the number of video games played in my lifetime. I loved some and detested others: from the first Lara Croft and Half-Life through Deus Ex, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Bioshock, the Anno series, Wolfenstein (gosh, the original video game is unforgettable!) to Fallout 4, Days Gone, Outer Worlds, Green Hell, The Last of Us and many more in between. Although not competitive, I can hold my own in the classic Mario, Minecraft, or Fortnite genres. Who knew? Well, now you do. And yes, my hand/finger coordination has improved significantly without feeling frustrated when still having trouble playing the strings on my guitar. Virtual self-healing wounds are far preferable.