As I’ve written about before, I have a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Frequent joint dislocations and chronic pain and fatigue are just a part of my day-to-day life which I have had to accept.

Explaining fatigue and chronic pain to people can be difficult. When you tell someone that you can’t do something because you’re just too damn exhausted, there’s often this underlying assumption that you could “power through it” or “get on with it” if you tried hard enough.

Because of this trouble in getting others to understand chronic fatigue, the Spoon theory was developed by Christine Miserandino. The idea is simple: every person has a pool of spoons which represent their energy throughout the day.

RUOiyq

Getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to work, working out, cooking, and every other little action you do over the course of the day will cost you a certain amount of these spoons. Someone with chronic fatigue would have a much smaller pool of spoons, and so are simply unable to do as much with their energy as everyone else.

When even basic things like getting out of bed or getting dressed cost those valuable spoons, you have to really plan out what your priorities are in a way people who don’t have a condition don’t quite understand.

Unfortunately, the theory begins to break down after a while. Talking about pretend spoons to signify basic actions can be too abstract for some people to understand, and in a world of batteries and loading screens it just feels outdated.

Us is a game developed by Ché Wilbraham about his and his partner’s life with depression and Multiple Sclerosis (a degenerative condition that affects the nervous system). It’s an incredibly simple game where you must decide what Ché and Tamla do from day-to-day. The catch is you must balance not only their mood to keep them happy, but their energy to make sure their lives don’t fall apart.

691a3b004035003d437577d280df0c26

By using an energy meter to show what others would consider really simple stuff like spending time with a partner, Us really brings Spoon theory to life. It shows that even acts we find enjoyable can tire us out, and it shows the impact using too much energy on something can have in the future. If Tamla or Ché get too tired, or if their conditions flare up, they may not have the energy to study or go to work, or even just help clean the house.

It becomes a juggling act – their mood is low, but this is also the only time they’ll have enough energy to tidy the house for a few days. Do you use up the last of their energy tidying and make them miserable, or let them spend time together and make them happy at the cost of a tidy house?

It’s these dilemmas which people with disabilities face every day, and seeing it put into game form was really, really nice. It was weirdly validating to see other people have similar decisions to make as me: do I play a game or spend time with others to cheer myself up, even if I know that means I won’t have the energy to clean up or do some work later on in the day? Seeing these questions posed so blatantly in the game let me know it’s not just me who feels it, which was great.

Please, it’s not the best-made game in the world, but play Us. Hopefully it helps you understand just how disruptive fatigue can be, and there isn’t a single mention of imaginary spoons.

Us on Itch.io.

About The Author

Former Managing Editor

Joe Parlock is an opinionated pop culture writer from the British midlands with 3 years of experience and a passion for being a general grump about games. Starting out before he could walk with a Sega Megadrive and a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, his favourite genres of games includes platformers, stealth, fighting, roguelites and the budding survival sim genre. Joe also writes not only about games, but also other areas of pop culture such as film and TV.

Related Posts

  • Oh, wow. I’m super-glad that you appreciate Us. Hearing these positive things about a project like this is amazing, especially from somebody who finds it relates to their own life. Thank you very much. It has made my day knowing that my work is doing a little good in the world. That’s why I make games.