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7:33 AM on 08.07.2011 // Blindfire
Cataracts, Terror, and Deus Ex

I know, I've been away for awhile. Longer than I'd have liked, but I haven't been able to muster the urge to write more than a few lines in comments lately. Today, though, I think I want to sit down and talk about what's been going on in my life lately, and how it relates to my gaming experience.

Recently I underwent cataract surgery, and I know what you're thinking. "24 years old and you have cataracts bad enough to warrant surgery? Isn't that something old people get?" Well, yeah, it is. My doctor tells me it's an occasional side effect, though, for people who undergo medical treatment for asthma at an early age due to the steroids in the medications. My lungs work great now, but my eyes? Not so hot.

I've actually been having trouble with it for the past few years. Due to multiple complications any kind of treatment had to be put off until I was able to either afford insurance on my own or get back onto my father's company insurance. Couldn't afford it on my own, job market was terrible. Couldn't get back on my father's insurance, we didn't have money to send me back to school to finish up my term. So any attempt to combat or treat the problem had to wait for awhile. Then awhile longer. Then awhile longer than that. I'd grown surprisingly proficient despite essentially being blind in one eye, but there are certain activities (in particular, driving, a necessity, and shooting, a hobby) I had to habitually avoid.

The issues with the cataracts were exacerbated by sunlight, so I gradually began to spend more and more time indoors, and countered with very dark sunglasses for being out and about. Thankfully the problems I was having were not nearly as bad with things like screens or televisions, though they still proved to be difficult from time to time. It made it a lot easier to function through that period where nothing could really be done for my eyes.

After the revised Health Care bill went through Congress, which extended the time dependents could be placed on a parent's insurance, it was finally time to get down to business. One visit to an ophthalmologist, and I was set for my surgery the very next day. 24 hours between me and clear vision in one eye.

I don't have a problem telling you, I was fucking terrified. The laundry list of shit that could go wrong coupled with the already debilitating effects of the cataract in that eye and the knowledge that recovery would mean wrapping my brain around an entirely new way of seeing compared to the adaptations I had made to the cataracts being present, it was all pretty difficult to take in. No matter what nightmare scenario actually happened when I was under the knife, though, nothing could be worse than the actual blindness I was experiencing and the havoc it was wreaking when my brain tried to mesh the conflicting images from both eyes in my head. It was necessary. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings are capable of when something is necessary.

The surgery itself was a pants-wetting experience mainly because it's a personal nightmare to have my eyes messed with in any way, shape or form. Near as I can tell this stems from an experience I had as a kid where another boy threw sand at me and it got into both my eyes. Trying to blink it out caused it to get under the lids and I could feel it scraping against my eyeballs. Ever since then, anything about the eyes bothers me and I tend to tear up very easily even in empathetic situations, like seeing a person on TV in a dust storm. Most likely psychosomatic but it's still there and still irritating as all Hell. Once they had me drugged up I calmed down a bit, but not quite all the way down. Memory gets a little fuzzy there, though.

Post-surgery they taped an eyepatch to my face and sent me on my way for another day. A day of itching, irritation, and general fear, wondering if things would work properly when all was said and done. All is said and done now, and things worked... pretty good. Adjusting is difficult. My left eye is now essentially permanently set at a certain range, about arms' length. It was supposed to be closer but the astigmatism in the eye caused a very slight misalignment with the artificial lens they gave me. The strangest thing about it is, I can't focus on things with that eye any more. (This isn't a complication, it's just the nature of the artificial lens, it doesn't focus.) It's like looking through binoculars that you can't adjust. Surprisingly frustrating.

My doctor says it's going to be difficult adjusting to having the "vision of a 65 year old man," and I have to say I agree at this point. It's a very strange experience overall. For the rest of my life, one part of me will always be synthetic. There will likely be more as I go on, but 24 is kind of a young age for that kind of initiation and it's still very weird.

So far it's had a somewhat negative impact on my ability to game. I have to be sitting at just the right distance in order to make out subtitles, which makes any story-based game more difficult to follow. The same trouble has cropped up in shooting games, having trouble discerning what's what, particularly friend or foe. As a result I've been playing a lot of fighting games, where things tend to be a bit more straightforward even when they're blurry. Thankfully this will be rectified as soon as I'm able to get my new prescriptions written for glasses, which I'll have to wear the rest of my life. It's still weird wrapping my brain around that idea, too.

Now at this point you might be wondering to yourself, "What the fuck does any of this have to do with Deus Ex?" The answer is simple. When I started thinking about the unexpected necessity of having something in my body replaced in order to function, I felt a strange sort of kinship with the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution protagonist. I came to the conclusion that I might actually enjoy having that unique thing in common with a character, and began to wonder how many little traits and experiences in our lives provide us with those personal connections to things, whether they be fictional or otherwise.

So, now that I've shared one little idiosyncratic connection my life has, I'd like to hear about how all you other D-Toiders relate to and find common ground with characters in the medium. What little things do you have in common with, or seek out in game personalities? Who do you feel the most common ground with among the casts of your favorite games? Share in the comments!

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