My experience with ADD and gaming

Recently Naithin, of Time to Loot, wrote about his difficulties in extracting values from games when he gets so easily distracted by a new game.

He even muses if he is somehow built different from other people as way to explain it. Pretty much concluding that whatever the reason for it he is mostly fine with his current status quo.

I did leave a comment on his post with some of my thoughts about it. Then I realized I could make a blog post about my experiences about it. Because unlike him, I am built differently. I have a diagnosed case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a mild case of attention deficit.

And unlike Naithin I am not fine with how it affects the games I play. I had to rack my brain a bit but these feelings is what I am going to try to talk about.

Spoiler warning though, I have no effective strategy on how to deal with it. If anyone has any ideas I am all ears.

This is post #2 for Blaugust 2021

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

It is not about the shiny

One of the biggest misconceptions about people with ADD is that they get easily distracted by some shiny thing. In my experience it doesn’t work like that at all. For me it feels more like my brain has an will of its own.

If my brain doesn’t feel like focusing on something there is no force on this earth that will make it change. I can try to force myself to do it but my mind will just wander aimlessly through something else thus just wasting my time and energy.

For example, I could be happily playing a game one day, enjoying my time with it then the next day just feel like playing something else instead. Even if I know it might be better to keep up with the first game to finish it I just won’t be able to focus it in the same way, much less enjoy it.

Even if I try to compromise and spend a bit of time in both games I might still end up fixated on the second game. That is pretty much what happened with Splatoon 2 and Fatal Twelve recently. I was happily playing both, spending a couple hours on them each day. Then at some point I just got so engrossed by Fatal Twelve’s story that I wanted to spend all my free time playing it to see how the story continues.

I still want to play to play Splatoon 2 and if I tried to play it now I’d probably give a half-hearted stab at it then close the game and go play Fatal Twelve instead.

And this isn’t talking about all the other gazillion games I have stopped in the middle but feel frustrated because I haven’t finished it yet. Those I wouldn’t last even 5 minutes at it.

So, if that is the case how do I even finish games?

The short answer is: it is complicated.

The longer answer is, it depends a lot on the games and my mood at the time. In an ideal situation I stay interested in the game long enough to finish it without any breaks. This usually only happens when it is a relatively short game or one where there is a constant stream of interesting decisions like in Civilization or XCom games.

More common though, I will end up taking sudden breaks from a games for a reason or another. Then whenever the mood strikes again pick back up the game, maybe after a few months or maybe even after years and play it a bit more. Then do that until I finish it.

This doesn’t always work, of course. Specially with games that has a lot of systems *glances at Tales of Berseria* or requires a certain amount of player skill *glances at Monster Hunter*

Because of that I got back into the habit of using walkthroughs. Most of the games I play for the story, not the challenge. So a walkthrough allows me to save time faffing around, wasting time and just enjoy the story.

How often and for how long it happens depends highly on my mood. If it is stable then it doesn’t happen too often. If I am worried about something or have a lot of things that I need to deal with at the same time then it happens a lot more often.

There are also some times where my mood is taking a nose-dive and I just become apathetic or start to enter into depression. During those times I usually can’t play at all and just go do something else to keep myself distracted.

It isn’t just with games

Of course, this isn’t limited only to games. It affects everything I do in life. For example, I could be reading a book that I am really enjoying then suddenly my mind might decide to wander somewhere else. Next thing I know I don’t even know what I am reading anymore and have to back up a bit to before my mind decided to go away without me.

With TV shows I have took breaks between episodes just to pick it up again much later.

And even when I had to take the subway or bus there were a few instances where I was so distracted that I missed my stop. Fortunately this one at least is extremely rare.


This way of playing is frustrating, specially when I have friends playing the same game at the same time and they are all discussing it. Yet I can’t join in the discussion either because I am behind or have taken a break from the game. But it is what it is and like I said in the beginning I have no idea how to make it work any better.

The best I can try to do is accept it but with an endless backlog that can be kind of hard.

I’d like to point out again that this all with a mild case of attention deficit. I can only imagine how much more complicated it is for someone wit ADHD.

5 thoughts on “My experience with ADD and gaming”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Rakuno. Because you’re right — I was under the impression that the presentation of ADD was being easily distracted by… well, anything and everything. So it’s a pretty interesting shift of understanding you’ve gifted me that it’s less about the other things and more about the focus shifting off the current thing.

    Does this pose issues for you in your ME D&D sessions as well? Or is mood generally high enough with those that it is held at bay?

    • Yeah, I think the way the media portrays ADD, like any other neurodivergence, just have done more harm and misconception about it than helped. But the internet has been a good way to try to share our experiences and let other people know how it feels.

      As for our D&D sessions, so far it hasn’t been too much of a problem. Probably because we play every two weeks so I get enough of it to have fun without my brain deciding I should take a break. But I will admit there were some days I almost thought about giving an excuse to not play and I certainly do zone out from time to time. This is another reason why recording our sessions to do the write-up has helped out. If I zone out I can check things later on to make sure I didn’t miss anything out. Unfortunately I don’t record it for our other D&D campaigns so in those cases I have to rely on the DM’s recap during the next session. XD

    • Oh, yeah. One analogy I think helps to understand it but I couldn’t figure out how to put it in the text in a natural way is that it is like a fire. When I am really into something it burns brightly and strong. But it can also suddenly be put out, leaving only some embers behind. Then at some later point those embers might be rekindled again and it burns as strongly as before.

  2. I think this is a super important topic to share and inform others about. I think as gamers, it’s good for us all to be aware of the different challenges individuals face in our community – not everyone can play the same game the same way.

    I also have so many games I’ve stopped in the middle of because of this or that or another game that caught my attention. And then, when I tell myself I need to come back to finish that first game, it’s been so long since I’ve played it that I don’t remember enough to pick it back up again. Either I have to watch a recap video or start all over again… so… I know exactly how that feels!

    In fact, I can count the number of games I’ve actually “finished” lately on one hand. But on the flip side, games sure are becoming more convoluted to complete now days, it feels. At least, the ones I’m interested in trying are.

    • I agree completely. And it isn’t just about being neurodivergent either or having some other challenge they have to deal with to play a beloved game. Some times someone just might be going through a rough patch and this might make gaming hard for them. Compassion and respect, like in every other aspect of life, can go a long way and help people feel included.

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