RPS Asks: What Do You Play When Ill?

It seems that everyone in the world has a cold or flu at the moment. Not me! I’m on a week-long break between colds and flu just now, so am fit enough to ask you, what do you play when sickly? What’s your gaming Lemsip? And what, Horace forbid, do you do when you’re too ill to sit at your PC? Do you have sofa access to the big black box? HOW DO YOU COPE?

There’s probably a level of being ill that’s Just Right. Somewhere between too ill to go to work, but not ill enough to be stranded in bed with thermometers coming out of every hole. You feel like crap, but crap that can sit in a chair surrounded by balled up tissues, and sniffle over a mouse and keyboard. Right there, in that moment, which game is it you want to play? What’s the title that’s going to ease your headache and distract from your achy tum?

Or what about when you are too weakly for the chair? When you’re all blankets and sofas and you’ve watched as much daytime TV about local councils and quiz shows based on lawn bowls as you can cope with? Do you ever turn to games? Do you, perchance, have a Steam Link or similar that you’ve actually used in anger? (Quite literally based on my experience of Link, which requires at least two people in different rooms shouting, “HOW ABOUT NOW?” at each other while screens display black nothingness.) Have you ever demanded a loved one set up your entire PC in the lounge lest you wither away entirely? Or is it time for mobile games/console boxes?

Tell us your sickly gaming tales, your favourite eye-ache soothers, your most ridiculous efforts to keep on clicking. But please wipe your nose, that’s disgusting.

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  1. dethtoll says:

    Doom. I don’t have to think too hard. I don’t have to move too much. I just have to blast everything in the face; outside of particularly crazy difficult mapsets like Sunlust, it all comes second nature to me without needing to think too much about approach.

    If I’m too sick to sit up, I’m too sick to be awake — though I’m noticing that threshold is getting lower as I age.

  2. Asokn says:

    I actually try not to play anything when I’m ill because, if I do, I find I can’t play that game ever again because it makes me feel ill. Unfortunately I last played Hitman Blood Money when ill so I can now never return to it.

    • Sin Vega says:

      I have the same thing when my thyroid is super-fucked and takes my brain down with it. I can’t ever play Vampire Colon Etc Bloodlines again without getting all anxious and glum. Bit of a pisser, really.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Same here. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will forever be connected to the anxiety of conscription for me.

    • Durgendorf says:

      I’ve never had illness permanently put me off a game, but I’ve had to table a few on that count. The first I can remember was a month-long gap when playing the orinal fallout after a nasty stomach bug.

    • TWChristine says:

      As a kid, I was eating some kind of extremely sugary cereal (probably Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs or something) while playing one of the Final Fantasy games on gameboy. I gorged myself on so much cereal, that to this day the thought of both the cereal, and Final Fantasy in general really puts me off.

  3. gpown says:

    Civ 5 all the way. Turn-based, but not XCOM – way too much stress there. I want a stroll, pretty trees, and a sprawling tech tree.

    Oh, and only military victory allowed. Ain’t gonna let an AI win with culture or some other silly stuff like that before they have a chance to get nuked.

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    Fallingbadgers says:

    Torchlight II is my mainstay to play when ill. It requires no thought, runs on my laptop and can be readily put down for sleep, books, Lucozade as required.

  5. Boomerang says:

    I’ve been bedridden on and off for almost a year so far during cancer treatment and I always go back to old favourites, possibly because there’s not heaps of new systems or mechanics to learn, can pick them up with no real bother. Games like SWOS, Sid Meier’s Pirates, Settlers.

    Can’t be anything too complicated when you’re unwell, and going back to old games is often comforting.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Yeah, being in that nasty brain fog zone really limits one’s ability to learn new mechanics, it’s rough.

    • ninjapirate says:

      I wish you all the best!

  6. christmas duck says:

    Mobile rules the sick gaming for me, don’t have to get out of bed/off the sofa/more than 2 meters from the loo (virus depending). FTL is my default on there, I’ve had my fill of it generally so I pretty much only play it when I’m sick now.

  7. Metalfish says:

    Mini Metro is my new “I refuse to think as my brain is sitting in my nasal cavity for some reason” game.

  8. Buttless Boy says:

    I have a lot of chronic illnesses so I’m pretty much always ill. Thanks to cognitive problems that come with some of my disabilities (imagine that fluish brain fog but it never goes away), I can’t play games that require quick thinking or require perfect input or timing. I can’t do complicated puzzle games. Mostly I enjoy huge, open world games like Bethesda’s stuff or Minecraft, anything that lets me explore a world for hundreds of hours is fantastic for escapism and occupying my endless sick time. I also play an absolute ton of Path of Exile since it’s that rare combination of endless content and creative thinking (I spend a lot of time on weird new builds), without requiring that thinking to be anything beyond glacial.

    It frustrates me to no end that so many games I’d otherwise love (Dark Souls and text-heavy RPGs come to mind) require concentration, memorization, or reflexes that I’m just not capable of.

    • Asokn says:

      Have you tried 80 Days? It’s essentially an RPG text adventure with fairly short blocks of text but it has a lot of depth and tells a fun story in each pkaythrough, which lasts about 2 hours.

  9. walstafa says:

    World of Warcraft or Diablo III. Brainless Skinner Boxes give me the illusion of accomplishment without much mental or physical effort.

  10. Don Reba says:

    I find it hard to enjoy games when I’m ill, so I juggle instead. It increases blood flow, clears up the sinuses, and takes my mind off from everything inside my face aching.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I also don’t play games at all when I am sick. I sometimes try to play something slow that also doesn’t require thought, but most the games I enjoy require either timing or thinking so it is a short list (Minecraft).

      More often, I just watch TV or read a book. If I am so sick I can’t work I am often in bad drifting in and out of sleep anyway, so having something brainless on TV that I can skip bits of helps a bunch.

    • GWOP says:

      When I am ill, I usually play around with the idea of getting out of bed, before always deciding against it.

  11. jon_hill987 says:

    Pokémon is a good one if you can’t/won’t get out of bed, simple enough to play without too much thought*, can keep you occupied for hours and most importantly is played on those funny little mobile game thingumajigs.

    *yes, there is depth there if you want, but it does not force it on you.

  12. timzania says:

    Personally I have to be pretty much 100% to have the mental energy for games at all. Give me a light headache and I barely want to watch TV.

  13. Sandepande says:

    If I have high enough fever (38,5+) I watch 2001: Space Odyssey.

    If not, it’s Pride & Prejudice or some fluff off Netflix.

  14. jj2112 says:

    Well Pathologic, of course.

  15. Craig Pearson says:

    Back in December an enforced house move got me so stressed out that I couldn’t play games. I stopped Fallout 4 because the decision-making and shooting were too much, and couldn’t find anything that wasn’t shooty on Steam that I wanted to play.

    But I did have a Vive dev kit, and that helped. I sat in my cockpit in Elite and flew over planets, or I’d play the whale demo over and over. It was a short break from a stressful real-life situation.

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      kfix says:

      I feel like this type of thing is going to be the real killer app for VR – shortish relaxations rather than shooty-bangs and other excitements.

  16. John O says:

    I spent Dragon Age 1, 3, Fallout 3 and Torchlight for weeks each when I was depressed. There’s something about walking here, clicking the thing there, and watching satisfyingly grim and / or colourful lights go off that keeps the real demons at bay. And it kills the time until treatment starts working. Good stuff.

  17. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Whatever I play, generally it’ll get turned down to Very Easy, sometimes turning on cheats too if it’s a game that support that.

    And when I’m ill I do the same thing etc. etc.

  18. Synesthesia says:

    ARPG’s like diablo are good ill/hangover games, i tend to gravitate towards those when i’m under the weather.

    Also 3ds in the bed!

  19. ButteringSundays says:

    I don’t tend to enjoy gaming when ill, it’s too ‘active’ and requires real engagement. It’s all about the passive activities – movies, TV etc.

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    caff says:

    Rocket League. Always. It doesn’t matter if I’m ill. It just gives me more free time to play it.

  21. Howard says:

    Weirdly. my go-to game when sick (or angry/stressed) is Wild Metal Country. No clue why, but I just find that game enormously soothing.

    Either that or Red Faction: Guerrilla. Nothing like smashing crap to pieces with a big hammer to lift the spirits.

  22. deadlybydsgn says:

    I read this as: “What do you play when you’re III?”

    My response: “I don’t know … hide and seek?”

  23. Ser Fluffybane says:

    Anything that runs on a laptop and can be played with a touchpad. This way I can lay down and play at the same time.

    Games that come to mind are:
    Anything turn-based
    Management games
    Old dosgames
    Some roguelikes/lites

  24. vahnn says:

    My battle station consists of a 28″ monitor on my coffee table, a comfortable distance away, with my pc sitting beside it. Keyboard on my lap, logitech g440 hard mousepad on the cushion next to me for my mouse. Super comfy, and I can even recline while gaming, and use desktop speakers with sub or headset.

    It’s really the perfect set up. I play whatever I want when I’m sick.

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    Jaeja says:

    Was badly sick a few weeks ago, enough that I couldn’t focus on eg XCOM. Bought American Truck Simulator and played that all week, playing the smooth jazz radio station. Recommended.

  26. Bodge says:

    Wurm Online, slow paced progress meter based gameplay is about all i can manage. A nice chat with the neighbours ingame normally helps matters

  27. MOKKA says:

    I once played this weird point and click adventure where the protagonist is a walking frying pan that died in a car accident (or something like that) when I suddenly got struck by a heavy fever. Now every time I get really sick (which thankfully doesn’t happen very often) I’m trying to play it again. If only I could remember its name or where I got it. But I’m certain it exists.

  28. Catchcart says:

    On a related note: What games have you faked illness for? Personally, only the original Civilization made me skip after school work. It was only sort of sick-faking as I didn’t even bother call in sick. Apparently even the lying parts of my brain were too busy with Civ to think about work.

  29. Cinek says:

    Europa Universalis, loosing miserably within first years (depending on faction).

    Usually when I’m really sick I’m not in a mood for gaming, and just watch some random series. Or movies I missed / considered too bad to bother.

  30. BathroomCitizen says:

    If I’m really unwell, gaming doesn’t give me any comfort. It just gets me frustrated because I can’t fully enjoy any game that way.

    If, on the other side, I’m in the sweet spot where I have enough energy to sit in front of the screen, I’ll play something slow, turn based – like Dominions 4 – a huge game with a lot of story – The Witcher 3, Pillars of Eternity, etc – or something that doesn’t involve a lot of thought and I can play in Low-Maintenance mode, mashing buttons like a devil, like Dragon’s Dogma.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    Minecraft is good, I like to turn the difficulty to peaceful and dig a big hole/quarry.

  32. Phantasma says:

    Last year i had a strange string of nonstop, rapidfire panic attacks that lasted for weeks. Needless to say it took a good while to recover from that. During that time i couldn’t really get into games at all. The only one that could really sooth my nerves was Elite Dangerous. Just flitting around, scanning planets and do very menial tasks.

    I could write whole novels about what the game does wrong, how Frontier are constantly behind schedule and that my patience and generosity towards the game finally took a severe hit after the extremely underwhelming Horizon expansion.
    But i’ll be forever thankful that it helped me pulling myself out from one of the most difficult episodes in my life.

    But if something like that should ever happen again (knocks on wood), i’m pretty sure Stardew Valley would be my to-go escapism tool now. With more engaging gameplay as well. Sorry, Elite :-P.

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    The Almighty Moo says:

    High escapism, high plot or characterisation, low mental effort. Strangely i play a lot of single player manshoots when Im ill as they tend to hit all those buttons and I don’t find them at all stressful save in high difficulty.

    Interesting that a lot of people seems to have said that games require too much effort (or involvement, I don’t mean people sound lazy) to play when poorly. I have a friend who won’t play games during the week as they find that working wipes them out too much for play to be fun, while I totally don’t find that at all. I guess it sort of backs up the notion that gaming requires more in terms of mental resources than television.

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      The Almighty Moo says:

      Also lovely to see so many ‘moments of zen’ things being brought up, which is probably a good question for another article. Certain title sequences or activities are enough to instantly chill me out- take opening to star map in Mass Effect for example.

  34. GhostBoy says:

    My main requirement for illness games involves whether the game has a pause button and allows saving at any time. I want to be able to both play at a pace that suits my usually-suboptimal state of mind and quit whenever I feel like it, rather than having to play for X amounts longer.

    That usually boils down to Europa Universalis 4, Cities Skylines or, if I am feeling bold, sidequesting in Witcher 3 (since sidequests usually do not involve triggering long cutscenes). Diablo 3 also sometimes makes the cut, due to being mindless entertainment where it doesn’t matter if I fail to keep my attention focused.

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    Risingson says:

    Nothing. Whenever I’m ill and have some fever I tend to get weirdly obsessed with the game, and then have terrible nightmares with it. I try to watch some old movies.

    And then, in the middle of the afternoon, when I am feeling a bit better before getting worse at night, I start to clean up my flat. No games.

  36. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Nothing. That’s how I find out I’m sick. I can’t take looking at the screen anymore and drag myself into bed.

  37. Giuseppe says:

    I don’t have a particular genre or game that I play when I’m ill. If it’s nothing much, like a slight cold or a light head-ache, I just play whatever I normally play. If I’m really feeling under the weather for whatever reason, I probably won’t play anything.

    However, I’ll forever remember Return to Castle Wolfenstein as the game I played when I had chicken pox. Being itchy all over even somehow made me better at it :))

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    teije says:

    When I’m sick, which is rare thankfully, I avoid anything that involves strategic thinking, lots of plot or much decision making. Which is unfortunately the only kind of games I really like (Paradox GSG, RPGs, 4x). Plus if I’m feeling up to sitting in my chair and playing on the PC, I feel even more guilty than I am already am when sick and my sense of faking it all increases dramatically. So that doesn’t work.

    Instead it’s comfort food of old movies and a favourite book or two. Jeeves & Wooster stories for example – the perfect tonic.

  39. unit 3000-21 says:

    Loveless, really loud, until I feel as if I’m disintegrating under my blankets.

  40. theWillennium says:

    Hearthstone on the iPad is a good go-to for a relatively un-demanding game that I can play while snuggled up in bed. Or something engrossing, but low-energy, like Civ.

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    Bluerps says:

    I tend to go with point & click adventures. I either replay old ones, or try a new one if anything good came out recently.

  42. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    I’ve always been fairly lucky with illness (touch wood) but the one time I had real flu, you know REAL flu, I spent the hour or two between sleep sessions, when the paracetamol + ibuprofen would clear the fug enoughave to play Ocarina of Time. I spent a week hallucinating I was Link and/or playing that game. It was…strange.

    I guess the answer is comforting old games if I’m ever knocked out like that again. Or a calm puzzler like hexcells. Preferably sofa based.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Actually, scrap Hexcells, I’m definitely of the feeling something immersive trumps something relaxing. I’d rather play something that perpetuates a headache if it’s distracting enough to take your mind off the headache. If it’s too much, it’s head under the covers and something like old Adam and Joe podcasts on t’radio.

  43. Darth Jimmi says:

    I don’t play games when ill. I’m victim of that psychological effect that when you play one game when ill, you almost can’t play that game again without feeling the same kind of ill.
    I have alot of headaches and its been like this for a while. When i was young i didnt have the sims on PC so i played it on the PS2. When i first got it i was sick and had a major headache and since then every time i even think about playing it i get a psychological headache (like now!)

    What i do when i’m ill is sit on the couch and watch some Youtube playtroughs and stuff. I tend to stick to more serious youtubers with low-pitch and stable voices troughout their videos when im sick, because laughing (as much as i pretty much live on it!) makes me cough bad and it can even lead to intense retching (and that hurts!) as well as being intense on the headache.

    When i’m starting to get better i play simple games/games that completely swallows me in like the Sims. (i cant think of anything else right now :P)
    However i do remember, when i started doing milsims for the first time and was really excited, i was really sick and played trough the whole milsim with a jumbo box of tissues, plenty of water and hand disinfectant. I got so focused on the game that i totally forgot i was sick. That’s the kind of games i’m looking for when im sick or sad or whatever.
    It’s also really easy for me to completely forget about my surroundings and reality when im playing games. So that helps.

    TL:DR I watch quiet videos and play simple games that makes me forget reality when i get a bit better.

  44. Barberetti says:

    Something like fishing in Salt, or charting/cataloging undiscovered star systems in Evochron Legacy.

    However, I’m too ill for any gaming at the moment, what with having a nasty cold. One of those ones where you ache all over and have lots of dizzy spells. I tried playing 7 Days To Die yesterday. It was a disaster. After a short effort trying to read the current book I’m on and not even making 2 pages, I gave up on the day and went to bed.

  45. fray_bentos says:

    If you are able to play games when ill, then you are simply not ill.

  46. Professor Otto Wolfgang Ort-Meyer says:

    I can’t remember the last time I was “ill” since I stopped taking the “flu jabs”…

  47. GunnerMcCaffrey says:

    Usually some builder in sandbox mode. Anno 1404 or Startopia are the best: aesthetically soothing (especially 1404, which is designed from the bottom up to make you feel just wonderful about everything you do, even if everything is on fire), and no more or less difficult than I make them – which when ill tends to hover around “just enough to take my mind off my body.”

    Banished can fit the bill too, though the labourer death spiral can be nauseating even when perfectly hale.

  48. Barchester says:

    Simple things in terms of graphics, usually, stuff without too many things happening on the screen at the same time. Which means point ‘n click adventure games in my case. If I’m really ill, I’ll just replay classics I know in and out (Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, stuff like that), and when I’m not too far gone, something from the backlog.

    When I get to a point where I’m just about stuck in bed, I whip out the Playstation Vita and do the same thing, but with old JRPG’s.

  49. KingFunk says:

    Back in late 2014 I had open heart surgery and spent a fair amount of time recovering on the couch. I played The Last Of Us remastered on PS4. It helped a lot to take my mind off the pain and to forget that I was about as un-badass as could be since at first I couldn’t walk more than about 10 yards without needing a lie down.

    Fortunately I’m a lot better now – I completed the 9 day ‘O’ trek of Torres del Paine in Chile about a month ago, so now I do feel at least slightly badass :-)

  50. dbs says:

    Funny you’re asking, RPS. I just broke one of my crucial digits last week. This means no controllers for me (goodbye, Rocket League, sniff), and nothing with complex controls.

    So I’m getting into The Banner Saga, giving the ETs hell in XCOM, and generally digging deeper in my Steam collection for turn-based fun. Not disappointed so far.

    Oh yeah, I can also (fortunately!) play my fave card game (Netrunner) online, so that’s a life-saver.