I want to start off by saying I am not a doctor nor am I a medical professional of any kind. This is merely an article to make others aware of my experience with ADHD and its affect on my life as a gamer. Compared to many of the articles you may find on the subject from doctors and/or researchers, ADHD has not ruined my life, it doesn’t hinder my life, and the entire condition is blown way out of proportion.
Around age five or six, doctors had diagnosed me with ADHD. This meant nothing to me at the time. In fact, I don’t even think I was fully aware of what it was until I was much older, my early teens maybe. Regardless, I was happy and healthy. Sure, I had a problem with personal space, my energy was through the roof, and I would annoy a lot of people. As an adult I can honestly say I’m not ashamed that I have it nor should anyone else that has it be ashamed. ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”. In recent years I’ve done some more research on the condition and have one very important question. Is ADHD really a disorder?
Normal: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
I honestly think people who don’t have ADHD, including doctors, just don’t understand it. It’s not that I can’t pay attention, it’s just that I don’t give a shit about what’s happening. That’s been my viewpoint from the beginning and I still stand behind it. If you’re not interested in a subject, with ADHD or without, I can imagine it would be hard for anybody to pay attention to it. I can see how this can become a “problem” in for young kids in school. I never cared for History so whenever I had to learn about it in school, I would have a hard time. Throughout school you’re forced to learn all sorts of things because “it’s part of the curriculum” or so “you can graduate”. At least that’s what I was told growing up and those sentences were supposed to suddenly motivate me to care about that specific subject. If anything it’s a more of a fear tactic. I have nothing against History and as an adult I’ve shown more interest in some historical information but I’m also not being forced to read about it. With that said let’s take a look back – I passed all of my classes, I was never left back, I never had to attend summer school, I graduated and moved on with my life, got a job, and have co-founded Gaming Pastime. My point is if you’re not interested in something you won’t suddenly become interested just because you’re forced to and it also doesn’t mean you have a mental disorder. This applies to anything, really, including video games. If you don’t like the game or if it’s just not holding your interest are you going to keep playing it? Probably not and that would make sense. I think forcing yourself to complete something may only make you dislike it more.
I think that, to outsiders, ADD and ADHD are considered disorders because the people who have it don’t act “normal”, or what society considers “normal”. I put that in quotes because there is no “normal” and every individual is different. Based on my experiences, a person with ADHD can function just like a person without it. There are even benefits to having it. For example I multitask all the time and never lose track of what I’m doing. I think I can do it better than most. I’ll be playing a game on one monitor, have Twitter up on the other for tweeting, have a show or movie playing behind me, maybe I’ll be eating something, or even be doing something else, and honestly I can bounce between all of these things without a hitch. I’ve read about an experience called “Hyperfocus” which basically means that when you’re in this state you can block out the world around you and dedicate your focus to whatever it is you’re doing. Apparently many people with ADHD can experience this and based on the definition I would say I experience this all the time. If I can get into something I usually remain focused on it until completion. This happens to me all the time when editing videos for example. It can be a tedious task to go through twenty or more videos, getting the audio levels right, syncing the commentary with the video, cutting out excess clips, etc. But you’ll normally find me glued to my screen to get it done. For example, it normally takes fellow co-founder Jeremy days to edit a video series, but I can normally get them all edited within a day, usually within a few hours (depending on how many videos). The downside to my “Hyperfocus” is when I get distracted or pulled away from what I’m doing, I get pissed off. This also leads back to my previous comments about being interested in something. I normally only enter a state of “Hyperfocus” if I’m interested in what I’m doing. Let’s just say I won’t enter this state if I’m reading a history book.
“Hyperfocus – people with ADHD may immerse themselves so completely in an activity that they want to do or enjoy doing to the point that they become oblivious to everything around them.”
Another benefit of having ADHD for me is I’m usually always in a good mood. Chances are you’ll always find me laughing. What people say, how they say it, facial expressions, and even crazy thoughts that go through my head can set me off, many times laughing uncontrollably. Is this really a problem? I’m pretty sure laughter is a good thing and even healthy. I’ve read that many people with ADD and ADHD are creative and I guess that’s true with me. I have a degree in graphic design and have always expressed an interest in art and I’ve channeled this interest into Gaming Pastime. Jeremy and myself designed the logo, website layout, and do all of the video work including recording and editing. Others may be creative in different ways. This may or may not be a benefit but I tend to do things quickly or try to get them done as quick as possible. My brain is constantly racing with thoughts and ideas so I guess it’s just a way for me to keep up.
There are, of course, downsides to ADHD. It can apparently lead to conditions like anxiety or depression. A few years ago, before Gaming Pastime, I did develop a fear for my health which did eventually pass but doctors had told me it was just mild anxiety. I tend to piss people off all the time and as a child I had problems with personal space. If you ask anybody close to me I guarantee you they can shoot off a list of things that I do to annoy them. I bet Jeremy could tell you how I just “spew random bullshit”, my father could tell you how I like to annoy people and find it funny, even my girlfriend would tell you that I “don’t know when to turn it off”. The best part is I’ll never stop. My antics make me laugh most of the time and I know exactly what I’m doing. I suppose ignorant people would blame ADHD for that but I have to disagree. I can control it and just choose not to. For example if I’m shy or out in public you would never see me acting crazy but when I’m with friends and family, I normally just let it all out. Because I tend to annoy people and not care, that may be seen as selfish, but in the end, I’m always there for those I care about when it counts.
Video games are my favorite hobby. If I’m not with family, friends, or taking care of responsibilities, chances are you’ll find me sitting in front of a television or computer monitor playing something and believe it or not, I still do go out and do things so if you thought I’m just lazy and unhealthy I’m sorry to disappoint. One day I was just thinking about my love for gaming and thought to myself “I should do something with this”. Jeremy and I passed around a few ideas before coming up with starting a gaming website. Even with ADHD, video games are something I can focus on, talk about, and enjoy, and for us, running a website was a no-brainer. Without Gaming Pastime I don’t know if I would have completed many of the games I have recorded. It’s like an incentive to complete the game so I can get the videos out and a review written. Let’s say we didn’t start Gaming Pastime, what then? Well it would be back to the way it was. I would bounce from game to game until something held my interest for long periods of time. Even now, if I’m just playing something to relax and have fun, many nights that could be many games. Before I go to bed I usually play a bunch of games. I’ll think of something I really want to play, I’ll put it in, play for a bit then think of another game and put that in. Just the other night I was playing Zero Gunner 2 on Dreamcast only to realize there was a Capcom sale on PlayStation Network so I had a chance to finally play Power Stone on Vita. So I turned off the Dreamcast and fired up Power Stone. It’s usually when a game clicks with me that I can’t put it down or will keep coming back to it over and over until it’s completed. With Gaming Pastime, I know I need to complete the game, especially if I plan to review it. Even when playing games for Gaming Pastime, I’m usually always playing multiple games. I could be recording one game for a few hours and when I’m done recording for the day I’ll play another just so I can review it after I beat it.
Having ADHD and bouncing from game to game caused me to make some changes in my environment. I would recommend anyone to do the same. I have two televisions, one is an HD widescreen and the other is an old CRT. I keep all of my modern and last generation consoles connected to my widescreen and on the other side of the room are the older consoles like my PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Sega Saturn connected to my CRT. Even better is I have both component and composite switches attached to my CRT so I don’t have to constantly connect and disconnect consoles. There is also, of course my computer for PC gaming among other things. This is really just an example of making life easier but knowing that I’ll be playing games all of the time and bouncing around from one to another, adjusting my environment to suit this keeps me focused and productive for longer. Before I had the switches it was a pain to constantly disconnect and reconnect consoles so that’s something that would stop me from playing or just cause me to bounce to another game on a console already connected. So basically I described typical ADHD symptoms. I can’t stay focused on one game so I move to another, and another, and so on. This is considered a mental problem? I don’t think so. I’m just looking for a game to keep me occupied.
You can definitely hear me laughing and possibly acting “crazy” and making ridiculous comments whenever I record a game with Jeremy. This is because we, more or less, balance each other out and have fun. By myself I need to play, record, stay focused, and talk about what I’m playing. When recording with another person, not all the pressure is on me so I can let loose a little. Of course many gamers on YouTube scream and just do annoying shit when playing by themselves but we refuse to do that. Maybe screaming into your webcam for attention and views is the sign of a mental problem. I mean it’s possible we suck and people do find us annoying but at least my laughter and outbursts are fueled by another individual that can react and counter what I’m doing, if that makes sense. We prefer to at least talk about the game or interact with each other when recording rather than screaming like a maniac. But we keep it very laid back at Gaming Pastime.
It was different when I was younger because I didn’t work or have money to spend. Jeremy and I are always out in game shops looking for games to play and record and chances are I would have been shopping for games during my high school days as well. Back in the day I would have bounced from game to game like I do now but the difference being I didn’t have many options back then. I had what games were given or bought for me and normally if I got bored of the game I was playing I would just do something else entirely. I started collecting games and even before the website it led to a problem – I have so many games but nothing to play. Sure the games peaked my interest but not all of them would hold my interest for long, minus a few. Franchises like Mario or Grand Theft Auto I can stay focused on from start to finish but other games, not so much. Sure they’re fun but they don’t pull me in or click with me right away. Because of Gaming Pastime I have a reason to start and finish any game I decide to play. What I’ve learned from this and would suggest to people is to find a reason to do something you enjoy. That can apply to anyone with or without ADHD.
There are medications that doctors may prescribe that can help people with ADHD to focus on things but I won’t mention any because I’m not a doctor but I have taken several medications throughout my life and I definitely noticed a difference after taking them but do I really need them? No. My parents would tell me I had to take the meds but I would just throw out the pills whenever I got the chance because I didn’t like the side effects. I made it through school without a problem and when I was eighteen I decided to stay off of medication and was able to focus on getting my degree. For me, one of the problems with the medications was I felt as if I was timed and could never do what I wanted to do in time, before the medication wears off. I guess the meds helped me focus in school but I did fine without them so what was the point? To calm me down? Why? Because people can’t deal with it. At least that’s what I believe. When I was on meds it was like my mind was in slow motion and I could focus on anything but at the end of the day it wears off. I could be in school and thinking about a game I was going to play when I got home and when I finally did get home I’d rather play something else. Doctors can increase the dosage but it’s not like it’s going to last forever so I never saw the point. Plus, when on meds, I didn’t feel like this was who I was. I’m an energetic, hyperactive individual who loves video games and laughs at everything. That’s who I am.
Browsing through Twitter recently I’ve seen some articles about ADHD. Apparently adults are being diagnosed with it now and one image associated with an article was of a person with their hand on their head expressing an emotion of fear and/or disappointment. I couldn’t help but laugh. ADHD has yet to ruin my life nor do I see how it could and there’s nothing to fear. There was another article that discussed the possibility of video games “helping” children with ADD and ADHD. So because people don’t know how to deal with it, the kids need “help”? I don’t see how games would help anyway. This leads back to my point about holding an interest in something. The child may just bounce from one game to another rapidly like I do. Does that “help” with ADHD? To me, that’s more or less a sign of the condition. Maybe it’s just the act of playing, who knows? But I’ve had ADHD my entire life and I’ve been playing games my entire life, more so now then I ever did as a child. I’m not “cured” because there is no disorder. I think many children are energetic to begin with and just because they have “trouble” focusing on something doesn’t mean there’s a mental problem.
It’s an epidemic? Bullshit.
In my opinion ADHD is not really a disorder. I can focus and pay attention to things. It just better be interesting to me. Sure, my mind is racing and bouncing from thought to thought but so what? My interest in video games led me to creating a website, giving me a reason to stay focused on completing a game while simultaneously enabling me to express my creative side. Hopefully this article will at least show people that even if you have ADHD, you can live normally and there’s no need to worry. Embrace it even as the benefits could be awesome. Despite the ridiculous articles you may read about, many people with ADHD become successful like Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake, and Terry Bradshaw just to name a few. Do those names sound familiar? Maybe doctors and researchers should compare ADD/ADHD to real mental disorders like schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder and then decide if ADD/ADHD is actually a disorder or even a serious problem.