I have seen a lot of negativity surrounding video games over the past decade or so, most news outlets screaming about how video games cause violence in children or are damaging children’s lives etc. but it is very rare to see video games in mainstream media portrayed in a positive light.
For Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-19th May) I wanted to chat about how gaming can be beneficial for one’s mental health; rather than focusing on how ‘damaging’ some claim they are.
I play games mainly for fun, that is what makes a successful game for me. I have had anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember and games have always been a way for me to escape my worries for a few hours and have fun; I would say that they have had a hugely positive effect on my mental well-being.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of the best games I have played recently, this is predominantly down to its masterful portrayal of psychosis, anxiety and depression. I won’t go into this in much detail because I have already spoken about it in great length in a post on my own blog, but I also had the pleasure of interviewing Melina Juergens (who did the voice acting for the main protagonist) for Jumpcut Play. What I will say is that I am so grateful for games like these because they pave the way for games to explore more complex subjects, and perhaps lead others to gain a better understanding of how the medium can tackle such subjects in a positive light.
Hellblade helped me feel more comfortable discussing my own mental health with others, but also I felt represented, I felt less alone in my struggles because so much of what Senua goes through was so relatable.
Video games don’t just have to have themes of mental health issues to have this effect. I play games for relaxation and escapism, as I am sure so many others do. If I get too stressed out with a game, I tend to not want to play because they can have a negative effect on me.
Take Sekiro: Shadow’s Die Twice for instance. I have yet to even scrape the surface of that game because it takes me so long to defeat bosses and I get so angry and irritable when I fail that they pay off of beating them, just isn’t worth the turmoil. But I am happy to accept this, and I love that people rise to the challenge and in other cases, this sense of achievement is what helps them unwind.
I think the best type of game for me are those that I can sink my teeth into and get comfortable playing; I think my top two games for this experience are Skyrim and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They are two very similar games in style (perhaps not tone), they are huge expansive adventures full of collectables and quests and this is where I get the satisfaction from.
I love a good completionist game, it is probably the main reason that Skyrim was the first game I every Platinumed, and quite honestly I have never been prouder of myself. It was beyond satisfying and is honestly the most relaxing thing for me, seeing quests completed one after the other, seeing my entire trophy list full.
Breath of the Wild on the other hand, for me, is probably the most relaxing gaming experience I have had (aside from the infuriating lightning Ganon boss…). I can plug that game in, wander around the world and just feel calm. The art style and music help this a lot; as you wander around the world the music is so light but also works with the environment so well that you just feel at peace until a Lynel comes to mess your day up…but simply just gliding over the massive world is such a wonderful experience!
The focus that video games give me is definitely such a life-saver for me. I will admit the game has to engage me completely because I have such a short attention span, but if I get hooked I am so focused that it helps me to let go of the constant worries that are floating around in my head,
The most recent game that hooked me like this was Spider-Man. I was absolutely enthralled by it, the gameplay, the story. Everything, I hate to say it because every single critic has already, but being able to swing around New York as Spider-Man and have it feel so real and fun was an incredible experience. I could genuinely spend a good half an hour just swinging around and I wouldn’t get bored. I completely forgot all of my worries outside of the game as I was playing it due to how immersive it was and I think the thing I keep going back to is how fun it was.
No matter how down things get I know I will always have some incredible games to take my mind off things, but also some equally incredible games that address these issues head-on in an informative and extremely relatable way. It is also so great to see how this topic is being addressed within the community and I can’t wait to see how it develops!
If you have any concerns about the issues discussed in this post, please visit Mind who can provide information and any support that you need.