This year I finally gave in. I’m a creative sort of person, and I love Lego, and I love computer games, and I all too easily get lost in both of those pastimes. So for the sake of everyone around me, I avoided Minecraft. It combines many of the things I love most, and I could just see that once I started I wouldn’t be able to put it down.
It was when I saw my 5-year-old son playing Minecraft on my brother’s iPad that I realised I had to succumb. It was so intuitive, tapping the screen and creating a world without limits, and Samuel loved it. So, after much discussion with my darling wife, I paid for and downloaded Minecraft onto all my mobile devices, so that my kids could play it. It is educational, after all. And I’d need to be able to help them, so I had to force myself to play it too. Poor me.
I have to say, it’s brilliant. I love the flexibility, the way it encourages exploration and creativity and imagination. The blockiness of it reminds me of the classic computer games I grew up with, so it’s somehow familiar. So this year some of my favourite moments have been sat on the sofa, with a child on either side, all of us playing Minecraft together. Bliss.
Well, it was bliss, until one evening when my thumb and wrist started aching. That particular evening I had only been playing for about 45 minutes, but clearly it was enough. The pain slowly spread up my forearm. Stupid Minecraft. I expect my general lifestyle probably contributed – I spend my working days frantically programming, and my weekends frantically strumming guitar strings, with the occasional bit of Lego in between, so my hands don’t exactly get much opportunity to rest. But I’m going to blame Minecraft.
As the days and weeks rolled by, the pain didn’t go away. I found myself unable to play musical instruments, and even typing and generally using a computer became a painful experience. I tentatively self-diagnosed RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), and bought myself a couple of wrist braces online (because at the time both wrists were suffering). Rest, I decided was the best thing to do.
I did have a slight incident with Deep Heat, however. You may have come across this product before – it’s meant to gently warm the muscles to relieve pain and help recovery. I happened to have a spray version that I had bought a year or two ago when I strained my toe, and I figured it would work on my aching arms too. So I sprayed it on. And watched as both arms turned red and puffy and stung like crazy. I bathed my arms in cold water, and after a couple of hours they began to return to normal. A bit of a scare, I can tell you, especially because I was home alone looking after the kids with no transport.
Anyway, this week I finally got round to seeing a GP about it. I described the symptoms, he pulled my wrists around a bit, and he prescribed me some anti-inflammatory pills and some hand exercises. He ruled out Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (phew!), but didn’t think it was technically RSI; he thinks it’s probably just a muscle inflammation in the arm. Personally, I still think there’s more too it, because it seems rooted in what I’m doing with my thumb, more than the arm itself. Time will tell.
Last night my vicar prayed for me. He prayed that if there was a lesson to be learned in this, that I would learn it quickly and then return to full health, and if there wasn’t a lesson to be learned that God would heal it immediately. I’m deeply grateful to him for that prayer, because it got me thinking. I wasn’t healed. Others have prayed for healing recently too, and I wasn’t healed instantly then either. So perhaps there is something for me to learn first.
At work, I am the only web developer. If I’m not working, stuff doesn’t happen. I’m indispensable. Losing full use of one of my hands would cause inconvenience (and potentially worse) for the business. At church, I’m the only guitarist, one of only three worship leaders (and the only one of the three that plays an instrument). If I’m unable to play, it means all our music has to be played by one pianist, who is no longer allowed a week off. I’m indispensable there too.
And that, perhaps, is where the lesson must be learnt. I see myself as indispensable because I haven’t built up others to support me. Work relies on me to be awesome, but there’s no one to share the awesomeness with, and no safety net in case I’m less than awesome. Similarly, at church everyone relies on me to lead worship and play in the band, and there is no contingency if I can’t. Maybe a lesson to be learnt here is to be more humble, and to actively bring others in to support me, maybe even replace me in the longer-term. Nowhere should be so fragile that the loss of one person is crippling, and one person shouldn’t have that responsibility either.
I’m on a course of anti-inflammatory pills, so hopefully I’ll fully recover the use of my wrist. And at that point I may begin playing Minecraft again, though perhaps for shorter periods. In the meantime, I’ll need to put measures in place at work to find development agencies that can work alongside me on projects. And at church we’ll need to put out another plea for more musicians. And one day, just maybe, I’ll get round to forgiving Minecraft for being so addictive.