Home  >  Stories  >  My Isolation Story – By Jack Mullen

My Isolation Story – By Jack Mullen

Things are tough for the world right now, that’s for sure. I’m no more knowledgeable about what is going to happen than anyone else. But I do have some experience of social isolation for reasons that were out of my control. I’d like to share this story, with the hope that some people may feel some resonance with it in this tricky time.

A number of years ago, I started to have health complications. Over a very short period of time, they resulted in some very nasty things happening to me physically. To make things worse, it was accompanied with an underlying crippling fear of the unknown. 

The time from initial symptoms to diagnosis was around a month, but it felt like years. Each day I would learn something new, like I had found the answer to what was going on – but it always felt just out of my grasp. I couldn’t feel safe until I really knew what was happening. Once I finally found out what my condition was, and that it was something I had a fighting chance of living with, I began to relax. 

This current situation we are all dealing with feels very similar to me. Like we are all at war with an invisible foe who keeps moving the finish line. There seems to be an overwhelming need for people to feel a sense of solidarity and shared determination. This can be a positive thing, but it can also be frustrating whilst we must all stay put in our different locations. 

After my health became something I could live with, it didn’t stop being hard. Due in part to the pain, and the physical and mental limitations my condition put me under, I ended up living a somewhat ‘socially isolated’ existence. This was a period of a few months where I rarely left the house, and I had a very limited routine.

While this way of living has its benefits in this current moment of crisis, it’s important to acknowledge that these isolating factors can have a very tough mental impact upon people in the long term. But there is hope.

During my times of isolation, I allowed myself to drift and become almost out of phase with a lot of other people around me. However, I eventually tapped into YouTube and played a lot of games to pass the time. I learnt just how powerful the medium could be. How it could bring a single, frightened and lonely soul like myself back from a bottomless pit of isolation. This wasn’t just some nostalgic thing from my childhood, it was a way of life.

During this time I played a diverse range of games. I remember playing a lot of Call of Duty: Survival in Modern Warfare 3. Many years on, I can still give you a tour of the ‘Resistance’ map, which I made my home for what felt like weeks at a time. I even managed to cheat and jump to get the red gem early in Crash Bandicoot 2, which takes hours to perfect. I also explored every single pixel of Dracula’s Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Games that offer you a large place to explore, and an abundance of things to do, really helped me focus my mind. I can see this same level of excitement and exploration being felt by many people making Animal Crossing: New Horizons their world at the moment.

I firmly believe gaming can work for anyone. Whilst this pesky virus is threatening to do its worst to us, we can really take it down a peg if we use all of these fantastic tools to connect with each other. We can help prop up the vulnerable people in our community. 

While there are events being cancelled, games being delayed and a lot of immediate changes to the way the industry is running, there are human beings at both ends of these decisions. Many artists, writers, developers, event organisers, musicians, YouTubers and fellow gamers are feeling the financial and mental strain this situation has placed upon them. Although it’s not always possible to help someone financially, emotional support can go a long way. A written word of sympathy or telling someone how happy something they did made you feel can help us all feel a little less isolated from one another. 

We’re all human, and we’re all gamers. Whilst we’re all frightened, it’s how we face this fear with a smile that really stops us being isolated at all from each other.