Why are game developers only now considering player comfort?

During and since E3 I’ve read and watched a bunch of previews for VR titles, often done with the developers of those titles. One of the best trends I’m seeing is that VR developers worry a lot about player comfort. They really don’t want their customers getting sick while playing their games/experiences. This is obviously good news for potential consumers and good business sense on the part of the developers.

But why did it take VR to get developers thinking about this? There are plenty of people who struggle with “motion sickness” in non-VR games but most developers don’t seem to think about them very much, at least based on my experience as one of the sufferers. I’ve actually written about motion sickness at least twice (here and here) and the constant struggle between my love of gaming and my dislike of having headaches and nausea.

Over the past few years I’ve been kind of self-evaluating myself and motion sickness. I found some things I could do to help fight it: play in a well lit room, get enough rest, and work on acclimating myself to a game. But more and more I’ve been noticing what causes it and it’s all to do with camera control.

I recently downloaded the demo for the new DOOM. I’d heard that it was super fast so I assumed it would make me sick, but it didn’t. Speed of movement doesn’t seem to factor into my motion sickness.

Conversely I’ve been playing through last year’s Mad Max this week. The game is broken down into two basic parts, driving bits and on-foot bits. I can play the driving bits all night long comfortably, and if I get out of the car and fight in the open, I’m good there too. But as soon as I go into a building I start getting sick. This really illustrated what causes my motion sickness.

The problem boils down to games where I have to fight the camera. In DOOM there’s no head-bob and the camera (at least in the time I played) never moved itself on me. So it was completely comfortable. In Mad Max when you’re in buildings in narrow hallways, the game is constantly taking control of the camera and adjusting things. Since I also am moving the camera, this causes discomfort.

I finally came up with a real-life analogy that maybe some of you can related to. Have you ever been sitting in your car at a stop light and the car in the lane next to you starts to move, and for a split second you think YOUR car is moving and you micro-panic and your stomach gives a lurch since your eyes are saying your car is moving but your body isn’t feeling it? (Hopefully this isn’t just me!) Well that’s the same kind of situation.

I’ve been playing this game and moving the camera. My brain, eyes and thumb are on the same page and everything is good. Then the game decides it doesn’t like where the camera is and moves it (and it doesn’t have to move it much to cause issues). My brain gets confused. It didn’t tell my thumb to do anything but the eyes are saying things are moving. And the headaches and nausea begin.

Now if a game doesn’t ask me to control the camera at all, I have no problems. But when a game asks me to take control of the camera, please let me control the camera and don’t correct things on me. If I can’t see something, that’s on me…I’ll move the camera until I can. Don’t “fix” the view for me.

I hate when game players say adding a feature would be simple because we don’t know, but it seems like offering an option to turn off “Automatic camera adjustment” shouldn’t be that hard and it would make a lot of games so much more comfortable for people like me who suffer from this style of motion sickness.

Game endings: is it me or do they suck?

So I finally finished Resistance 2 this weekend. It was a really fun ride right up until the end. The end, I felt, was annoying as hell and I couldn’t wait to get through it.

Which felt really familiar to me. And thinking back, it seems that with any kind of action-based game (FPS or 3rd person action-adventure stuff) I always get annoyed at the end. (And keep in mind I don’t finish many games so maybe I’m just finishing the wrong ones.)

I can’t decide if my problem is due to me, or due to game designers. It might just be that once I “feel” the end is near I start thinking about the next game I’m going to play, so I get in a hurry to finish the one I’m currently playing and so anything that trips me up starts feeling like an annoyance rather than a challenge. I also always get into the “I just want to finish this before going to bed” trap and suddenly it’s 2 am, I’m dead tired and cranky and making stupid mistakes.

Or it might be the designers always feel like they have to add 1) a big “surprise” twist at the end of the game, which is so expected now that it isn’t the least bit of a surprise and 2) one big hoopla fight designed to challenge the players one last time.

I hate the twist…it’s become such a trope. Y’know, the whole game you’re fighting to get into the castle tower and you finally get there and “Oh no, the evil wizard left his minion behind and now he’s in the castle dungeon. Retrace your steps!” Or a favorite alternative is “Yay I killed the ultimate bad guy…game over? NO! He’s reborn in a more powerful form! Fight him again!”

And the hoopla… the reborn boss can kill that bird with the same stone. Other hooplas are a sudden absence of checkpoints or a new twist to the gameplay that changes everything around. For instance the end of Halo when it turns from a shooter into a driving game. In the case of Resistance 2 it was a series of 3 domes you had to travel through. As you entered each one you got locked inside and had to wait for the big bad to tear it apart to get at you. Said big bad is impervious to your weapons and easy to avoid (stand in the center of the dome) and he takes a LONG time to destroy the domes. I spent that time petting the dog since the game literally didn’t require my attention at all. Between the domes you have to fight and dodge insta-kill hurled debris, and if you die, you have to start before the first dome – no checkpoints. Then the very very end is Halo-like… traverse a crumbling installation before the timer counts down and blows everything up.

I don’t really play games for the challenge, which probably is why the endings are so annoying when that spike in challenge is probably appreciated by many players. Plus I always have more games that I want to play than available time to play them, so I like my games shorts and intense, so drawn out endings always dilute the experience for me.

Anyway, not really singling out Resistance 2 on this…it was a pretty good game overall, and it’s no worse in this ending respect than many other games I’ve played. And now I can play Resistance 3!

Real emotions from our games?

Over the weekend I read an interesting post by Dan Cook over at Lost Garden: Shadow Emotions and Primary Emotions. In it, Cook coins the phrase “shadow emotions” to indicate emotions that we experience second-hand, while “primary emotions” are emotions that impact us directly. Using Cook’s examples, feeling sad after reading a news story about a mother dying is a shadow emotion, while feeling sad because your own mother died is a primary emotion.

Cook says AAA game developers work hard to deliver shadow emotion experiences in much the same way that books and movies do. But, he suggests, game developers can do more and that games are one of the few art forms that can let us feel primary emotions. When your character dies in a permadeath game the feeling of sadness you feel is a primary emotion, for instance. (Still using his examples.) When a spawn camper takes you out several times in a row, the rage you feel is a primary emotion.

I think Cook makes some really interesting points, but I don’t want to follow him down this path. The basic premise of the essay seems to me that primary emotions are a goal game devs should reach for. My problem with this theory is that most of his examples are of negative emotions. Sadness and anger. His positive example (elation) revolves around hitting a goal in a game.

The problem, for me at least, is that as much as I gain satisfaction from reaching a goal in a game, that emotion is fairly fleeting. But if another player pisses me off to the point where I feel rage, I can carry that baggage into my real life far too easily. I’ll be in a bad mood for the rest of the day, sometimes. Maybe this is why I generally play solo?

I think, when I come home from a long, tiring day at work, that ‘shadow emotions’ are plenty for me. I’m not sure I want my games invoking powerful primary emotions, either good or bad. I play to relax. I might be swayed if someone could convince me that we’d get as much positive as negative emotions out of our games, but I’d have to experience that kind of game to know for sure.

I’m also not sure how to categorize the feeling of contentment I get when I finish a game. Is that primary or shadow? I’m not sure it’s different form the feeling of contentment I get from finishing a book.

Anyway, agree or not, it’s a fascinating essay and I encourage you to give it a read.

Tension between narrative and gameplay in single player games

I finished Portal 2 today. No spoilers, I promise.

A lot of people have griped about the single player campaign being too short. I think, if anything, it was too long. I’m considering length of the campaign in a vacuum here, without regard to the $60 price tag. My determination revolves around questions of whether there was enough narrative and fresh gameplay to carry the length of the game.

I’m a fan of narrative. I love stories. I love making them up, reading them, and uncovering them. Y’know those linear JRPGs that so many gamers look down their nose on these days? I love them because I find it fun uncovering the story inside, even if I have no real control over it. It’s like an elaborate adult version of connect-the-dots. (Do they still make those?)

So back to Portal 2. Early on I was loving the gameplay. Portal is essentially a series of puzzles. I’m not often a fan of puzzles but the kinetic feel of Portal makes this style of game fun for me. And it was (I thought) funny. That was on Tuesday when it was fresh and new to everyone. I quickly got caught up in the narrative and wanted to see what came next.

Wednesday it was fun too. Thursday I believe I skipped, and by Friday spoilers were getting past my spoiler barriers. I hate spoilers, but so many people were playing and finishing Portal 2 that they were inevitable. I’m not saying anyone was being an asshat about it, but you get enough tiny bits of info from different people and you can start to piece together what’s going to happen. I won’t give examples because… no spoilers here!

As I got deeper into the game, the puzzles became more elaborate. Most of them weren’t hard but after some time my brain would just start to freeze up and I’d need to take a break. When I’d come back I’d have an “a-ha!” moment and start making progress again. That, to me, is a sign of good gameplay design.

The problem was, the further in I got, the more interested I became in the narrative experience. Those breaks started to bug me because I wanted to find out what happened next. The situation was compounded by the external force of spoilers; I was eager to finish the game before the story was completely ruined for me.

By the time I finished, after essentially spending all my free time today on the game, I was feeling pretty sick of it. That’s a shame, really. It’s got both fun gameplay and fun narrative, so what went wrong?

First was the rushing to finish. That was a huge part of it. But the other problem was one I see time and again in games. The narrative pacing slows down the farther into a game you get. This is generally because the actual gameplay gets more challenging. When you start to die and reload over and over again, that stretches the real-time between plot points. This slow-down probably isn’t apparent on the designer’s story-board, unless they’re smart enough to factor in “by now the player will probably be feeling pretty frustrated and will take a break.”

This slow-down feels exactly the opposite of most other kinds of story telling. Generally the early parts of a story are slowest and things build to a frantic climax by the end. Game designers focus on building the gameplay to a frantic climax, which usually means tougher and tougher boss battles the closer you get to the end of the game. They anticipate that gamers want to walk away having beaten a tough challenge and feeling good about that. The practical result of this is that the story bogs down. For me, when the story is bogging down because the gameplay difficulty is spiking, the designers have failed me. The cadence of the experience goes to shit. It happens all the time.

I don’t know that there’s a way to “fix” this. It’s just an observation. I certainly don’t want game designers to stop trying to tell stories with their games. Stories are why I play single player games. I don’t give a fig about challenge levels, really.

Portal 2 really wasn’t so bad in this aspect; I don’t mean to single it out. But this is the first time in a long time I’ve played a really popular single player game at launch, and so felt a pressure to ‘keep up’ so as to avoid spoilers. And so as I grew more and more frustrated watching the clock roll forward and really wanting to progress and see how the story ends, it struck me how ‘inverted’ game design is when it comes to narrative.

I don’t think it’s only me, either. In watching people talk about something like Dragon Age II, I see a LOT more chat about the plot and romance sub-plots than I do about how difficult a particular battle was.

Game devs: don’t challenge me!

So yeah, The 3rd Birthday is already starting to gather dust. Why? It isn’t you, Aya. It’s me.

I’ve discovered something about myself; I don’t want game developers challenging me.

Now wait! Hear me out. I don’t want them challenging me…I want them to give me ways to challenge myself.

Let me explain that.

About 1% of the way into The 3rd Birthday I hit a level where I have to avoid a monster. You’re told you can’t fight this thing: it’s all about evasion. The creature has 2 attacks. One of them knocks down about 1/3rd of your health with each hit, the other seems to 1 shot me. You have to dodge this baddie for some set amount of time, then you get warp out of the area.

I failed this mission the first time. And the 2nd. And the 3rd, at which point I headed to Gamefaqs to see if there was a trick. There wasn’t. Then I failed a 4th and 5th time, then I put the game down and haven’t gone back to it.

I’m not saying it’s a particularly difficult mission. But I’m old, my reflexes aren’t what they once were and the camera controls are awful so I can’t keep an eye on the beast. The difficulty, or lack thereof, of this mission isn’t the point of my rant today.

My point is, there’s nowhere to go in The 3rd Birthday except past this mission. The developers have challenged me to beat it, and I’m feeling resentment about that.

That doesn’t mean I want all my game playing to be easy, though. Consider a typical MMO. When I log in, I can decide “I’m going to try something really difficult tonight!” and head for some tough mobs or into a dungeon. Or I can decide “I’m feeling pretty mellow…I think I’ll just grind some low level mobs for coin and to feel mighty.” and do that. I can dial in my level of challenge on a minute-to-minute basis.

This isn’t limited to MMOs, either. Minecraft is in the news today because it has a launch date. I love Minecraft, buy y’know Notch hardly challenges us at all. Sure we can die but so what? The level of challenge in Minecraft is totally internal. Maybe you just hate to die but you’re determined to rid the world of creepers. Maybe you want to complete a structure before bed. Maybe you’re figuring out how to build a logic-switch in-game. Again, we dial in our own level of challenge.

Lots of (but not all) RPGs give us some leeway too. If an encounter is too difficult we often have the option of going somewhere else for a while, either to take on a different task or in order to level up our characters. This is that “grind” thing that MMO players hate but that lots of single player RPGs revel in. Particularly, it seems, lo-fidelity RPGs that run on handheld gaming consoles. Me, I don’t mind grinding, as long as it’s a choice, not my only option.

I’m sure there are other examples of this. I’m trying to quantify the difference between a totally single-path game that forces you to bang your head against every obstacle the devs put in front of you, and games that have enough lee-way that they offer some other activity for when your frustration level rises. I personally like to feel that I’m making some kind of progress. Die/restart/die/restart/die/restart is the worst of all gaming worlds for me. I come out of those sessions annoyed to have wasted my time and wishing instead I’d read a book or scrubbed a toilet or something. But Die/Restart/LevelUp/Die/Restart/LevelUpSomeMore at least feels like I’m inching forward. Getting some more bits of story can also feel like progress.

Maybe gaming just isn’t a good activity for us old, slow people who feel the passage of time more keenly than you younger folk do. I’m very cognizant of the fact that I have a finite number of evenings left in my life. I don’t want to waste even one of them playing a game where I make no progress. Not when there are so many thousands of games, books and movies I want to experience before I take on my ghost form!

Choice, game design, and MMOs

Once more into the breach, my friends…

In my last post I talked about Rift and groups and solo play. An interesting theme seemed to arise from some of the comments, and one that I found curious.

Today I want to talk about player choice and game design. I’m going to keep using Rift as an example but this could equally well apply to certain other games.

At the risk of over-simplifying things enormously, when you log into an MMO you have some broad decisions to make: the first is what style of gameplay you’re about to undertake. Are you going to putter around & craft? Just logging in to visit friends? Are you planning to solo? Are you planning to Group and go after content that way? For the purpose of this post I’m looking, once again, at Solo vs Group.

Say you’ve decided to Group. Now you’re going to pick a role. Do you want to be the Healer? A Tank? DPS? Buffing/support?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you want to be a Group Healer. So here’s your character; a blank slate. Since you want to be a Healer, you pick Souls & Skills (in another game this could be Talent trees or whatever) that are heavy in healing capabilities. If you want to be a Healer and you take a bunch of skills that are focused on Taunting, you’d be a pretty poor Healer, right?

Can we all agree so far? Healers should take skills that help them heal. If a Healer takes skills that emphasize taunting over healing, you’re probably not going to be a great healer. Does this illustrate an example of bad game design? Does anyone think that?

Now let’s back up the decision tree a bit. Back up to the Solo vs Group decision. Here’s where my opinion seems to diverge with some others. When I decide I’m going to Solo I use a build that emphasizes that play style. I don’t take a bunch of group buffs: I won’t be in a group! I will look at self heals, or self shields, or perhaps a pet. I will probably set up a hotbar full of various consumable items that will help me to either survive or reduce down time between fights. Conversely if I’m going to Group I’m going to skip the self heals and instead take, maybe, a group-based stat buff or an AOE taunt or something else that works best in groups.

When I suggested that this was the best way to play Rift solo (specifically I said that if you’re going to solo a lot, some kind of self heal or pet will make life easier), some people suggested back that if playing Solo required using certain (Solo friendly) skills, it was an example of bad game design.

I don’t understand the difference: Healers need to take healing skills, Tanks need to take tanking skills. Everyone seems to agree on this and no one seems bothered by it. But when Soloers need to take solo skills, suddenly its bad game design?

It is essential to keep in mind that the only permanent decision you make in Rift is your archetype. That you’re stuck with, but within it, you can have several (at least 3 and maybe 4) Roles and each Role can use any 3 of your 8 souls, and each Role can have its own distribution of skill points and skills. You can switch Roles anytime except in mid-battle. And if a Role isn’t working out, fr a few virtual coins spent at a trainer you can reset it and build it anew as something else. So if you’re playing Solo and someone throws you a Group invite, you tap on Hotkey and now your Grouping Role is active.

To me this is the opposite of bad game design. I find it to be kind of awesome in fact. But it *seems* not everyone agrees.

Dragon Age is not perfect!

So I’m about 16 hours into my current game, with enough in other characters that I can probably safely say I’ve put 20 hours into Dragon Age: Origins so far. I’m growing ever more sure that this is my personal Game of The Year, which frankly surprises me given how much I enjoyed Infamous and Uncharted 2.

But no game can stand up to 20 hours scrutiny without revealing some imperfections and Dragon Age is no exception. Of course, no game is perfect. The title of this post is intended to provoke.

Anyway, here’re two things I’d like to see changed/added to Dragon Age: Origins.

First up, inventory. We’ve got a fairly limited amount of inventory space, and I’m not 100% sure why that is. Plus, there’s no way to put something down (unless I’m missing something); if your pack is full and you want to pick something up, you need to destroy something you’re carrying. When I’m in a large area with no vendors and no way out and my inventory fills up, it can be a little annoying. Granted there have to be some limits. But I hate that I’ll have to throw away, for example, a kite shield in order to make room for a silver ring.

Why not let us pile up extra gear somewhere in the corner of an area, so we can come back for it later (there could even be a chance that by the time we get back, someone or something will have rummaged through our loot).

As a sort of corollary to this issue, here’s a more controversial issue. I’d like to have a different inventory system. The way things are now, you get X inventory slots and every item (or stack of items) takes one 1 slot.

I get why they did this: to keep things simple. But Dragon Age isn’t a simple game. Now don’t be alarmed, I’m not calling for a “Tetris” inventory system. Rather, I’d assign a number of “burden points” to every carryable item, and then I’d give the party a set capacity for burden.

An example might make this more clear. Currently you start the game with 70 inventory slots. Instead of 70 slots, give the party the capacity to handle 700 encumbrance points worth of stuff. A ring would have an encumbrance value of 1. A shield would have an encumbrance value of 10. A plate chestpiece might have an encumbrance value of 20.

So now when you’re at capacity and want to pick up a ring, you can throw away a shield and get the ring and have some extra room to spare. Or you could throw away a salve and swap in the ring and still be capped. On the other hand if you find some plate armor you want to lug around, you’re going to have to make a number of sacrifices to fit that in.

Honestly that’s a “thinking out loud” idea. But I do think it’d be nice if we could drop items. This isn’t an MMO where we have to worry about lag from items being dropped by hundreds of parties, after all.

Until we get changes to the inventory system, you can head to Spinksville where Spinks talks about a mod that gives you some storage space in camp. That’ll at least help you squirrel away all those rings, statuettes, bottles of wine and other giftable finery you’ll pick up in your travels (but that each take up the same space as a piece of platemail).

Second, I have a feature request. I want a combat review camera. I love the combat system and I love the spectacle of combat. But I feel like I miss a lot of cool stuff because my back is turned, so to speak. This is particularly true while playing as a rogue, since you’re in the middle of battle and constantly moving to get in some back stabs. It may not be as bad for mages or other ‘back line’ characters.

Too frequently something will happen in a battle when I’m not looking. Suddenly two of my party will fall and I’m not sure what caused it. Or a Tactic condition will be met causing a mage to cast a spell that levels half our enemies and I’m not really positive which spell it was.

Enter the review camera. This gizmo lets you rewind time to the start of a battle and then gives you a free floating camera that lets you observe (passively…I’m not talking about a retry) the combat from whatever angle you feel is best. You can watch from the position of that enemy mage who lurked in the shadows until we sent our hound after him, for instance. Or you could just fly around the battle, watching it from all angles; maybe even add a feature so you could save “films” of epic battles in this way? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to edit ‘combat films’ and then save them in an online album to show off to friends?

Anyway, that’s enough for today. Can’t wait for the weekend to arrive so I can put in more serious Dragon Age hours. Sneaking in 30-45 minutes on a week night is almost worse than not playing at all!

The return of the weekly Dragon Age video!

I guess the Bioware/EA press juggernaut took a week off to catch their breath. But they’re back and this time a decent video of the combat system in Dragon Age. Clearly the people being filmed expect you to be watching this before you play, so there’s a bit of redundancy (assuming you’re playing DA:O right now, and if you aren’t…why not!?) but they also talk about where they drew inspiration from and what they were ‘going for.’ (You can decide if they hit their target.)

A short epilogue talks about how many more stories there are to tell in this universe. Whether that’s a tease for DLC, an expansion pack, or a sequel, I don’t know. I’d be happy with all three, myself.

A game is not a list of bullet points

Syp at Bio Break did a post today declaring Torchlight to be a carbon copy of Fate, and he has a list of bullet points to prove it. And looking at his list, I can’t disagree with a single point. In some cases I’m taking Syp’s word on the fact that the points match up, because I never got far enough in Fate to see how later parts of the game, like passing items on to other characters, worked.

Why? Because I found Fate tedious. A not-very-good Diablo clone with a vile copy protection scheme. It came pre-installed on one of my HP machines which allowed you to play a few sessions for free and then asked you to pay for the game. It never occurred to me to pay for it because I didn’t find the game the least bit compelling.

And yet my early hours with Torchlight have me enthralled. In fact I hesitated about writing this post because writing it is eating into my Torchlight time.

To really explain why I love Torchlight while I found Fate pretty ‘meh’ I’d have to re-install Fate, and that isn’t going to happen, so I’ll just have to look at the intangibles of Torchlight and make some guesses. And mostly I think it’s because the combat, simple as it is, feels so satisfying. Each attack lands with a solid impact. Each urn breaks with a satisfying crash. When dozens of creatures swarm out of a tunnel or a mine shaft it just sends a thrill up my spine… “To battle!!!”

Fate just felt like ‘click click click’ whereas Torchlight feels like ‘Slash! Bash! Pow!’ … even though the mechanics and bullet points match up so well. Torchlight has a soul. Fate was just a game. I guess you can’t capture ‘soul’ in a bullet point.

* * *

And while we’re talking Torchlight, GameInformer has a post up on how to rebind the keys. It isn’t as easy as it should be, but it ain’t rocket science either.


Time, value and scorn

I argue with MMO bloggers a lot. Maybe I’m just old and set in my ways, but so much of what these youngsters say just rings so false to me…

One topic to always get me embroiled in an all-day rasslin’ match is this concept that most MMO publishers are just out to fleece their customers and they make MMO’s full of un-fun time sinks so that people will play longer and so keep subscribed.

I don’t agree with this argument. If the activities that bloggers refer to as “time sinks” aren’t fun to the players, then why don’t the players leave the game? Why stick around if you aren’t having fun? Anyway, I’ve argued that argument until I’m blue in the face. Not going to do it again, life is too short.

In fact, I’m throwing in the towel and I’m going to AGREE with these bloggers, but on condition that they cast their nets wider. It isn’t the MMOs are full of time sinks. GAMES are full of time sinks.

This struck me when I was reading In Praise of the 3-Hour Game (doh, no stretch there.. I sure can make mental leaps, eh?). In it, Wired’s Clive Thompson suggests that most (narrative driven) games are bloatware and shouldn’t run more than 4-5 hours. The argument goes that games cost a lot to make, so you have to charge $60 for them, so you have to fill them with time sinks to stretch out how long they take to play so that players feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

For the record, I don’t totally agree with Thompson either, but I agree with him more than I do with the bloggers. When I’m grinding levels in a Final Fantasy in order to take on the next boss, all I’m doing is grinding levels. Nothing unexpected is going to happen. Nothing else in game is going on. Compare that to grinding levels in an MMO. I never know what’s going to happen next. Maybe someone is going to come running past any minute, in need of help or something. And I’m probably talking with guildies or friends while I’m grinding, so even if nothing unexpected happens I’m still having a pleasing conversation.

In either case, people are paying to do time sinks. Either at $15/month, or with that big fat $60 fee up front. If the basis of the argument against time sinks is that time sinks aren’t fun, and we’ve established that both single and mmo games are full of time sinks, then why do we find games fun in the first place?

I mean, any non-gamer would tell you the entire game is a waste of time and a ‘time sink.’

I could do into this some more, but I have to go grind a couple more levels in Star Ocean: First Departure before I can take on the next boss. And y’know what? I’m really looking forward to playing after the day I’ve had.

# # # End gaming discussion # # #

To my friends: A while back I was apologizing about being so negative and all that and mentioned that my mom wasn’t doing too well. A few of you expressed concern, and that was very much appreciated. I just wanted to post a quick update. It’s been an on-going struggle since, as we’ve tried to motivate her to take care of herself. Funny thing I’ve learned. If a person is lucid, you can’t force them to help themselves. We’ve been trying like crazy to get her to check herself into the hospital but she wouldn’t. Then today she fell (not for the first time) and hit her head (the first time). Thank goodness someone happened to be there, and an ambulance was called, and now mom is *finally* in the hospital getting some medical attention. Tests will be run; they think she may have pneumonia, or worse (her white blood cell count is way low – she’s smoked like a fiend for close to 70 years…draw your own conclusions) but at least they have her eating and drinking.

I know it sounds weird to be ‘celebrating’ my mom landing in the hospital, but it feels like such a relief. She’d gotten to where she would choose not to answer the phone, and every time I called I’d get to worrying that she’d fallen or had just passed away and was laying there, or hoping she’d just decided she didn’t feel like talking to anyone (you wonder where I get my crankiness…the apple don’t fall far from the tree!) Thank goodness an old high school friend lives across the street and he’d check on her for us. I’m far less worried with her IN the hospital than I was when she was OUT of it.