How Cuphead Taught Me to Care About Ergonomics
Part of healthy gaming is taking care of your body and knowing when to take breaks
I turned 31 on July 8. While normally the family would travel around this time of year, since it’s hard for us to all get together, we decided to hold that trip in August. I found I didn’t have big requests for my birthday, since getting older has become less fun for me. Each year I question how much I’ve done and how I can improve. Joining the SUPERJUMP migration has been one of those points of pride.
The day after my birthday, my older brother reached out to ask what I wanted to do the day after. I suggested playing Cuphead together to commemorate the DLC’s release. He agreed and ran through the tutorial to understand the gist of the game. After he defeated one boss and died miserably to Goopy LeGrand, Ribby & Croaks, and the first two Run n Guns, he took a break. Off to the gym he went as I faced one Run n Gun before going to the library.
I found a migraine had developed. It continued for the rest of the day, taking an actual night’s rest to do the trick. Even the next day, I found my body aching. Why is this?
Reflecting, I wondered if it was because I played for hours on end on a high stool the previous day. No support for my back. No breaks.
Lesson learned. I purchased ergonomic cushioning for my work chair that week. Since then, I haven’t had a migraine while trying to navigate through Cuphead and accumulating 500 deaths. I’ve been careful to prevent the pain that lands me in bed for an hour. Who knew that Cuphead would have me reflecting on my well-being and health.
While Cuphead is a beautiful game and a labor of love, it is also a difficult franchise. Both the main game and the DLC have proven that you need to work hard to get better. It hones your instincts on when to dodge and dash, though sadly not when to parry. I would love to parry a few shots here and there to improve my graded performance after finally reaching that victory.
Even the game itself understands it is a challenge. Cuphead features an optional song where a barbershop quartet will sing and encourage you to take a break. It’s probably my favorite song from the original soundtrack, owing to how relaxing it is.
The song and its reminder are present for a good reason. It is easy to get into the frustrating loop of facing bosses and demanding that they succumb to a knockout. It took me a week to beat the amphibious brothers, and another week to deal with Baroness von Bon Bon. I shudder to think how the round with the dragon will go with or without the lobber.
Gaming has opened my eyes to different supports available for making sure I’m not placing unnecessary stress on my body. When playing games like Spelunky or streaming, I usually wear pressure gloves. Since I’m someone who writes often, I’m at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Pressure gloves and arm braces at night help to reduce the strain on my hands. However, wearing these supports requires consistency and stretching. I hope that yoga will help with that, along with weekly workouts, to reduce general tension.
With the ergonomic cushion as an added support, I found it made a real difference. It is also an affordable option compared to investing in a gaming chair (which can cost hundreds of dollars and requires assembly). My sciatic nerve is less strained with me no longer sitting on a hard surface for an hour. Now it’s mainly my hunched shoulders, which happens while I’m working. With a bit of posture adjustment, I can correct that.
It also means that Cuphead won’t break my back while I accidentally lose a Hit Point when playing in the first phase. I can rely on my fingers and instinct. All I have is rage, the healthier alternative to back pain.
Taking breaks and pacing yourself is another vital factor to consider. While I’m not someone that plays games for hours unless I have a block of my day free and the desire to immerse, remembering to stand after a bit is essential. I don’t remember to do that all the time during the workday, but my phone reminds me to drink water in the morning and afternoon. We do what we can with reminders to take care of ourselves.
Supports Are Worth It
If you are a gamer, an ergonomic cushion may be a lifesaver. It can also work for remote work if you are doing an office job in the middle of the pandemic. You thus get more value out of it, saving you from experiencing future backaches and migraines.
If ergonomics aren’t in your budget, check your posture while playing, and don’t forget to stretch. It never hurts to take care of your body to spread your enjoyment, especially if Beppi has killed you for the twentieth time.
Don’t forget to listen to the Cuphead barbershop quartet, which can apply to any game. “Why not take a quick break, then come back for more?” Wise words from the helpful crooners.
Take a break when you are gaming and take care of your body. A migraine is a killer and you don’t want to suffer it. Back strain will let you know when it’s time to invest in helpful body supports. I can speak from experience.
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