Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is truly hard to quickly define.
To put it simply, it’s a negative impact on one’s frame of mind due to a traumatic event. Some event in which the 'victim' witnesses something truly awful or is put into a situation so extreme it makes their mind not work like it should.
Each case is different. Some folks develop violent tendencies or become alcoholics. Some end up on the extreme and end up committing suicide such as a close friend of mine chose to.
For me, I’m probably on the lesser end. I was diagnosed back in February. I have random issues with claustrophobia, I’m slightly paranoid, I’m probably over-protective of those I care about, and of course the occasional obligatory nightmares.
While these issues might sound bad on paper, I’m in a privileged state to not have this condition affect my everyday life. My close friends and family will never be let in on the true nature of the condition, and I don’t see myself truly opening up to my experiences overseas anytime soon. I feel as if I'll never truly open up to civilians as I’d like to, they either wouldn’t believe me or they would be turned off by violence I’ve partaken in or think I’m crazy. And on the few occasions I’ve tried to share things, they just don’t care.
It has become increasingly obvious there are some dumb things I simply can’t do anymore. Or at least enjoy as much as I used to. For instance, my PTSD seems to flare up when I drink Jäger. I know...weird, right? I’ve yet to find a vet that shares that problem. Not that it’s a good drink, but fuck...I’m in college and pounding $4 Jägerbombs at the shitty bar is part of the young adult experience.
I have a true love for videogames. Playing, critiquing, and simply coming on this site to chat about them in some manner of intelligent form is my creed.
While I don’t have a difficulty with most games, one of my favorites is too well designed for me to play in long stretches or intoxicated. My doctor says alcohol inflates PTSD like a balloon, so all triggers should be avoided like a goddamn plague. My doctor is kind of right unfortunately.
Battlefield’s (3 & 4 specifically) attention to detail is astonishingly well done and my mental health problem should be a complement to the developers. So to all the folks at EA, don’t take this as a negative criticism but as an official seal of approval that your design is so well polished that a man that has lived the real experience is disturbed.
Listen to this fight in Afghanistan and how its sounds might compare to games like Battlefield:
The game’s single-player isn’t representative of the real world and the combat itself is too cartoonish to take seriously in comparison of real-world Afghanistan. Instead, it’s the sound design.
More Afghanistan footage:
This may sound like a trivial element, but the incredible sound design encapsulates the real world thing well enough to put me on edge a bit, especially with high quality headphones.
The dynamics of the entire game are truly impressive. The ambient noise on multiplayer maps with explosions, and distant machine guns are more than enough to resonate with any veteran. In my case, well enough to make me uncomfortable.
In Battlefield 3 I was walking with my squad. My squad was actually made up mostly of my real world army buddies. I’ll preface this with real world military tactics don’t necessarily apply to videogame success.
We took enemy sniper fire from a rooftop, the enemy likely being some 12 year old from Colorado or something. I returned fire with my SAW, the weapon I used through most of Afghanistan.
The Army trains the machine gunner to immediately return fire in the direction in which it was received for the riflemen to pick out the enemy. The supersonic sound of that 'sniper’s' 7.62mm round whizzing over my shoulder brought back memories and sounded close enough to a real world scenario. I jumped behind cover and immediately expelled dozens of bullets.
I went into “Army mode”.
Now a word from a Battlefield sound designer:
As I laid down a barrage of my 5.56mm SAW rounds on to the window this Sniper was firing from, I asked riflemen to find him with their ACOG optics. They returned accurate fire. One group in my squad had a 320 Grenade Launcher. I yelled at him to fire all the 40mm grenades he had until the threat was destroyed.
The sporadic gunfire sang in a specific rhythm I was used to. The sounds of gunfire tells a narrative. From the rate of cyclic fire the machine gunner chooses, the volume of rifle shooting, distant explosions, RPG fire bracketing your position, and guys yelling obscenities in the background tell a tale every veteran is used to. From the arrangement of these elements, you can sometimes paint the specifics of how deep troopers are “in the shit”.
A full belt of my own ammo, dozens of rifle bullets, and 2 grenades later the 12 year old from Colorado was “dead”.
The dust cleared. I realized during those six seconds we weren’t playing a videogame, but instead were transported back in time. I was in fact playing with guys that were in my fire team overseas. It was natural to shout orders and to verbally analyze the distance and direction of the threat.
This event was before I was diagnosed with any problem. Something serious settled in with me that night of playing. I then realized I had a problem.
Not long after that play session my long time friend Doran killed himself. He was in my virtual and real world squad. I had plans to move in with him and we would go to Ohio State University together. We wanted to throw awesome parties and such.
No, Fox News, videogames didn't kill him!
A man that saved my life and wanted nothing more than to kick-back with whiskey and play videogames with me in Columbus ended his own life because of a misunderstood and easily underestimated disorder.
That session with Battlefield was my first true insight that I have a disorder. It was too late for my friend though.
Battlefield's effect on my state of mind is a true testament to its quality. It's one of my favorite franchises. I can't necessarily enjoy it in large doses, but I credit it with pointing out a problem I had in its early stages that could've led to bad choices and self destruction.