I didn’t think anything of it when I started. But as the days crawled by, blending into one another as I lost all concept of time and reality, I realized that marathoning games is probably not a good idea.
My poison was SoulCalibur V and Final Fantasy XIII-2, which arrived almost on top of each other. As I filled the fridge with Red Bull and ready-to-eatables I assured my roommate, yes, I would be fine, I could crank through these triple-A titles and whip up some five-star reviews faster than you could say “embargo drop.” And yes, one week without getting the requisite eight hours every night won’t kill me.
Oh, what a naive and silly girl I am.
As fate would have it, I didn’t sleep. At all. My weekend flew by without me ever leaving the house. I don’t remember cooking, something I normally relish doing as a way to relax and clear my head. I don’t remember when or if my roommate came and went, but I do remember taking several gently-above-frigid showers in an attempt to keep myself alert. I remember plugging in my percolator and downing cup after cup of burnt coffee followed by an insane amount of Twix bars. Sugar and caffeine. I had to stay awake and finish these games as soon as possible, I had reviews to write!
Granted, not everyone has been under the same kind of pressure I was under — that frantic, oppressive time constraint when you need to form an opinion and craft it into words as soon as possible. As a video game journalist I have a responsibility to provide my readers with this sort of information. Gaming without a professional purpose is sweet, and should be relished like a big, fat, cheeseburger with all the fixings, dripping grease and molten cheese, after a lengthy and arduous diet.
But I hadn’t been on a diet, and Chad’s watch was ticking. I had to move. And so I moved through the world, from work to couch and back, without sleep.
Monday morning I dragged myself onto my feet, caked my tired, puffy face in makeup, and trudged to work. Three cups of coffee later the workday was over, I had accomplished nothing, and I was back on my couch at least somewhat alert. I was irritable; I snapped at my roommate and banged the controller against my head when I had trouble with SoulCalibur. I zoned out during battles in XIII-2. But as the seven-day mark approached, I was two bosses away from completing the main storyline of XIII-2, and I was having dreams about Caius Ballad coming into my apartment and eating all my peanut butter… That’s when I knew I had to turn off the TV and give it a break.
Some of you will think I’m a whimp. Guaranteed I’ll get the “I don’t need sleep, sleep is for the weak” sneer from someone. But like countless other people I require that glorious eight hours every night to restore my balance and prepare me for the tasks ahead. I wasn’t getting eight hours. I was getting one or two, if any, and I was completely and utterly deranged.
There is a moment when sleep deprivation becomes so great, you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing. The edges of your vision shimmer, your eyes drift in and out of focus. You’re not hungry, or even sleepy. You’re just… something. If you ever find yourself in the same position I did, gamers, take this advice: deadlines be damned, put on your jammies and go the hell to sleep.
Sleep deprivation is not funny. Funny to the people watching you fall down stairs and stay strange things, yes, but not to the one who is suffering.
Here’s a little PSA for all of you: put down the controller and go to bed. There is nothing impressive about being able to stay up for an entire week doing nothing but gaming. Your eyes hurt, your body feels greasy, and chances are you’ve fried your brain from doing any decent work as well. I find it hard to brag that I didn’t take proper care of myself for close to ten days and burnt all my productivity gaming. I don’t remember half of what I played, which is the really terrible part. In the end I managed both reviews, but I was worse for the wear.
I’m all for an all-day playthrough with friends, but it’s one of those rare treats that is best served on one of those days when you have no obligations for the next. Because god knows after playing Final Fantasy XIII-2 for ten hours straight I would see the Gate Selection menu when I closed my eyes. You need to be awake to enjoy a game, so what’s the point of slowly killing off your white blood cells in an attempt to get through it as quickly and efficiently as possible?
Medical studies have proven that if you don’t sleep, you could face an immune-system dip. Nothing is more unattractive than piling “sick” on top of “twitchy,” “grimy,” and “full of potato chips and french onion dip.” You need to get up and move, eat something green, go for a run. Staring at a screen for so long can damage your eyes. There is an untold amount of damage you can do to yourself if you do something like this repeatedly, over an extended period of time.
Turn off the PlayStation and go take a walk. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s great for an energy boost without having to down caffeine. Open a window, do some sit-ups. Hell, haul your butt to the gym or the store or go seek out human contact. I’m not by any stretch saying that video games are bad for you, but marathoning gameplay is like eating an entire birthday cake, stuffing forkfuls of sweet and gluey confection down your throat when you’re already full to bursting. Play for a few hours and stop when the edges of your vision start to swim, before you wreck yourself.