By Roger Bjoroy-Karlsen
Edited by Lauran Timlin


“Gaming, isn’t that for kids?”

Gaming is for children of all ages. I have gamed since I got my Commodore 64 with “Star Wars”. It was almost in slow motion using line animations, via the Nintendo games console that I rented at Thorn, and right through to all five Playstation versions. Today I am 60 years old and still a gamer.

And a lot of it is war games.

“But isn’t it completely wrong to play war games when you have PTSD from war?”

It may seem strange to play war games in, among other things, modern settings for someone who has PTSD from constant attacks in two war zones over several years. But TV games are not reality. Most gamers see a difference in this, even though much of the war takes place inside their head. Then much of the environment is largely fantasy-based.

My brain does not associate it with the real thing when it blares from the TV speakers. But if I hear a shot right down in the terrain, it triggers me immediately.

At the same time, I know that veterans must be careful not to come across triggers in games that are in very similar environments that they themselves have operated in and been injured in. For my part, that has not happened. But in 2018, when I was at the treatment facility for my PTSD, my homework was to watch the American TV series “Generation Kill”, about the invasion of Iraq. I managed that for a maximum of ten minutes each time solely because here there was far too much recognizable for me. Everything from equipment to military dialogues between the soldiers, plus the surroundings. In 2018 I was also in very bad shape.

Having said that, my favorite games are of the type called stealth games. Here, “Assassin’s Creed” is a good example. Strategizing, planning tactics, and solving puzzles and missions actually give a feeling of mastery. To achieve something. It sharpens the brain, as well as  reflexes, simultaneous capacity, and coordination. It creates a distraction from what was floating in your head before. You escape to another world. And the most important thing is that it creates mastery. Accomplishing something is important to me who fails at many things in everyday life.

The Americans have actually researched gaming in veterans with PTSD and found that, in sum, it results in improvements for them.

Writing, making and playing music are also attempts at distraction and mastery. It is often difficult to concentrate, but it gets a little better each time. Writing is often interrupted by thoughts, and sounds I hear around me. “Was there anyone outside?” In and out of it I go, but I don’t give up even if it is often challenging to keep going. Even if PTSD does not go away, it should rule as little as possible in my life. But it is also an eternal struggle. I force myself in front of the desk and the instruments every day. I am also picking up the game controller and fleeing into fantasy worlds. And when I get there, I have good times only interrupted by outside distractions.