One in 10 COVID-19 infections lead to Long COVID. To raise awareness, three new game modes let players experience the chronic illness in their favourite games.
As you traverse through the mysterious wilderness and ancient ruins of Elden Ring’s Limgrave, you are suddenly hit by a wave of fatigue. Your vision fades momentarily. You’ve lost some of your precious runes. Where have they gone? You can’t remember. It becomes harder to focus your bow and arrow. Everything feels more difficult. Could this feeling – in the midst of one of 2022’s most acclaimed games – be your character suffering from Long COVID?
In-game characters feeling the symptoms of Long COVID while playing a popular video game is now a reality thanks to a campaign raising awareness of the debilitating effects the new chronic illness can bring.
Long COVID Mode is a new game modification recently unveiled by the patient organisation Long COVID Europe (LCE). The network of Long COVID sufferers have come together to highlight their shared conditions – such as myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) – through increasing the difficulty of popular video games.
So far, LCE has revealed three games which the Long COVID Mode works for: Elden Ring, Minecraft, and The Witcher 3.
Of the many surprises of the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the world in 2020 was the chronic symptoms that a portion of sufferers didn’t recover from in the typical time-frame. One in 10 COVID-19 infections lead to long-term health problems. Yet, awareness of Long COVID has remained far lower than awareness of the initial coronavirus.
“We want to raise awareness about Long COVID as a serious neuro-immunological disease and make a difference to people affected by this debilitating illness and other post-acute infection syndromes like ME/CFS,” says Chantal Britt, Co-chair, Long COVID Europe.
“Despite the fact that those who are severely affected are forced to spend their lives housebound or even bedbound, such illnesses have been trivialised, underfunded, and neglected by research, medicine, and society for centuries,” she continues.
So what differences do the Long COVID Modes actually make to the three games LCE has modded? In Elden Ring, a game in the vein of the Dark Souls series which is known for difficulty, players will feel occasional symptoms of exertion and have to stop for a few seconds, they face blackouts and healing processes that damage instead of heal. For the entire playthrough, characters are hit by fatigue and reduced stamina among other side-effects.
“I think it’s a creative way of raising awareness, and we wanted to take on such a project because we think doing a mod about it can definitely help people understand more about the topic, whilst also enjoying one of their favourite games in a challenging way,” explains Garden of Eyes, the creator of the Elden Ring Long COVID Mode.
Similarly in Minecraft, some of the Long COVID Mode symptoms include memory loss, causing the player to leave behind items without purposely dropping them, and an inability to use the sleep mode as effectively.
Over on action-adventure game The Witcher 3, the superpowered senses of the main character are inhibited by brain fog and your stamina is compromised.
The three games chosen by LCE were picked because they’re all massively popular with audiences of all ages. _Elden Ring_’s famed punishable difficulty also lends itself to gamers who want to up the difficulty even more – while also learning about the impact of Long COVID.
“The challenges presented by Long COVID and other invisible post-acute infection syndromes like ME/CFS forced us to find novel means to show people without this experience what it really feels like to live with such a debilitating condition,” Ann Li, Co-chair, Long COVID Europe says.
“Living with Long COVID means facing new levels of difficulty every day. Gamers love new challenges in their favourite games. We simply connected these dots to create a vivid simulation of a life with Long COVID,” she concludes.