Fighting Cancer With Casual Games

Fighting Cancer With Casual Games

I’m writing this from my father’s hospital room. Three weeks ago, we thought he had a prolonged case of Whooping Cough that was causing a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, weakness, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Now we know its pancreatic cancer that’s spread to his liver and kidneys. The difficulty breathing is due to multiple blood clots in his lungs and I’m dealing with the knowledge that my dad will never walk me down the aisle or meet his grandchildren. He’s only just turned 66 and won’t make it to my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary at the end of the month.

Usually, in times of duress, I turn to my hobbies. I read. I listen to music. Most of all, I play videogames. After all, I’ve sunk over 84 hours into Fire Emblem Awakening over the past few months, not to mention time spent with games like Terraria and ZombiU. My Oncology Overnight Bag was packed with everything I thought would give me solace. I have my 3DS, along with copies of Fire Emblem Awakening, Etrian Odyssey IV, and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning. My Vita has Zombie Tycoon 2 (Thanks PlayStation Plus!), Black Rock Shooter, and the Soul Sacrifice demo installed. I even bought A Feast for Crows for my tablet, despite having the paperback.

I can’t play, or read, any of them. I can’t focus.

What I can play, however, are Jet Pack Joyride, Candy Box, and Candy Crush Saga.

I went for Jet Pack Joyride first. I wanted to try and play the Soul Sacrifice demo while my dad was having a nuclear imaging test done. I’ve heard fantastic things about it, and it looked promising, but I couldn’t stick with it. So I brought up Jet Pack Joyride, my “go-to” Vita app. I played it for over a half an hour. The only reason I stopped was because family had come to see him and he had just gotten back from the tests.

Still, as wonderful as Jet Pack Joyride has been, I think Candy Box has helped even more. I discovered the game via tweets last week, before my family and I finally convinced my dad to go to the emergency room again. I dabbed in it for a few minutes, left a tab open to accrue some candy, but abandoned it to work on my Terraria castle. Now, Candy Box is open at all times. My Lollipop Farm has 100,872 lollipops planted. I have a level 4 Sword of Life. I’m contemplating tackling Castle’s Keep, but I’d like to craft some potions in the Cauldron and break the 35,000 eaten-candies barrier first. It’s just a godsend. I can leave it open and constantly progress while I’m preoccupied with more important things, like helping my mom, being with my dad, visiting with relatives and listening to doctors. It’s there when I need it, if I want, but doesn’t demand any serious effort or concentration. It’s exactly the kind of distraction I need right now.

Ironically, it may be the notorious, money-grubbing Candy Crush Saga that’s helping most of all. I haven’t been sleeping well in the last few weeks. Things race through your head at times like these, after all. You’re probably thinking that I treat these bouts of stress-induced insomnia by playing Candy Crush Saga until I get tired. Not so. Instead, I’m matching imaginary, colored candies to help me sleep. I suppose you could think of it as the videogame equivalent of counting sheep. I go through these colorful confections until I nod off for a few hours and panic wakes me again.

Fighting Cancer With Casual Games

It’s funny, because while I have dabbled in casual games, I never spent serious time on any of them. There would be a few moments here and there matching items, hunting for objects, or managing my time, but I never really got addicted to them the way I did games like Mass Effect, Harvest Moon, or Fire Emblem. Yet now, when I need some kind of distraction the most, they’re the one thing that helps. I guess it just goes to show how every genre of game, no matter how trivial, can help make our lives a little easier or better.

So thank you Halfbrick, King.com, and aniwey, for making this all a little easier to bear.

Jenni Lada
Lead Contributor
Date: May 9, 2013
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