PRESS "B" BUTTON TO PLAY ~ By B Neil Brown

One of the hardest things to deal with post amputation and pre-prosthetics was my inability to get out and do anything, or see many of my friends. Sure, I had a few friends who would make a trip to come see me, but often those visits turned into awkward reminiscence sessions about the things we all did together when I still had legs. The harsh reality was that if my friends didn't come see me, I didn't get to have much interaction with them.

And that gets lonely.

Luckily for me I have had experiences in my life previously that helped me cope with my newfound convalescence. When my son was much younger I was often on the road working and I got to see him only every other weekend or so. There is only so much rational conversation you can have with a twelve year old (he is 18 now, and graduates from high school in a few weeks) so we worked out a great plan to hang out every night, even when I was out of town. My son and I started playing online games together in the evenings. He was at his mother's house, and I was in my hotel room, but we both were talking to each other and interacting in a virtual world where we chased bad guys and and did cool things. Together. Side by side.

When I got to my worst point of loneliness and separation from the outside world after my amputations I used my previous gaming experience with my son to help keep me sane. I started online gaming. I was stuck in a wheelchair, or in bed, but thanks to an online role-playing-game I suddenly had the ability to make new friends, explore new places, and have some fun.

I discovered that even without legs I could still run around the countryside with my friends, have conversations, interact with others, and maybe even slay a few dragons -- all while sitting in my home in a wheelchair.

My participation in online gaming gave me an instant outlet where I could meet up and hang out with friends and have fun. All of them where very supportive of me, as they all knew I had recently become an amputee. As word spread in the gaming community I was involved with I found that complete strangers would stroll up to me in game and tell me that I was "awesome," "inspiring," and even a "hero."

Since I have recovered and am walking again I rarely log into any of my gaming accounts anymore, but I made friends in my dark and lonely days that I keep and talk to still to this day. Online gaming gave a team to go play with (called a clan or guild) even when I couldn't get out of the house, and it kept me from going crazy sitting by myself.

If you have a computer, you have a way to get out of your wheelchair while still sitting in it. Go try out an MMO or MMORPG game and make some new friends and have a few adventures, it might just save your sanity.

And if you happen to meet a group that calls themselves "RoC," well tell 'em Smoak sent ya.

B Neil Brown

www.twofeetshorter.com

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