For so long, gaming has gotten a really bad reputation through a lot of media outlets. Claims that it can have negative effects on a person’s psyche run rampant, and that’s a real shame. Not only because it degrades and attacks an entire industry of creativity, but also because it hides and masks the positive nature of gaming for mental health.
That’s right, everyone! There is actually a positive effect that gaming can have when it comes to mental health. So, I wanted to try and do my part in balancing the scales by looking at how gaming can help mental health problems.
A Bit of Background
For those who haven’t been reading this blog for a while, you may not have seen my previous post for Mental Health Week, where I discussed my own issues and demons with mental health. If not, you can read that post here. Either way, I have been dealing with mental health problems for years. Even now, I still do, because they never really go away completely. You just learn to live with them.
Thankfully for me, gaming has actually made it far easier to manage and cope with the negative thoughts and feelings that creep into my head every now and then. Through the games that I play, I am able to get control of my mind and push those thoughts aside. That is really important for anyone with mental health problems, and that’s why I want to bring awareness to the fact that gaming can help with them. I mean, if it works for me then it may very well work for you too. So rather than let this possible help continue to be masked and hidden from people, I am hoping that at least someone can find some aid from gaming after reading this.
The most obvious way in which games can health with mental health is through escapism. Dealing with day to day life can be really challenging without any mental health problems. Work life is often stressful and even things like the daily commute can fill you with feelings of anxiety. If you have mental health problems then this can all be exaggerated and strengthened.
Because of this, it can sometimes feel like you don’t have a way to turn off that anxiety, stress or negative feelings. That’s where gaming comes into play (pardon the pun).
Modern games like Horizon Zero Dawn (for me) and classic games like the older Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games feature such deep and vast worlds. As you play these games, with their beautiful lands and engrossing storylines, you get absorbed into those worlds. This can help you to distance yourself mentally from whatever was causing the negative feelings you were having, at least temporarily.
During this time of separation from that day’s cause of your feelings, you get time to subconsciously process them and start to deal with it. At least, that is what happens to me.
However, I wouldn’t recommend something that is potentially triggering, such as a horror game or anything competitive. Instead, go for a game that is deep and story rich, with a well-designed world that you can just lose yourself in. Single-player role-playing games are perfect for this!
Another aspect of gaming that can really help you deal with mental health problems is through mental distraction. For example, by playing a fun and entertaining platformer like Super Mario, Tanglewood or Sonic (at least the older ones and Sonic Mania), your brain becomes focused on dodging the enemies and find a way through each level.
Similarly, playing puzzle games like Puzzle Bubble or, of course, Tetris can have a similar effect. This is because you become so incredibly focused on the puzzles and how to complete them that you get entirely distracted from whatever triggered you that day.
One of the most important things you can have when it comes to dealing with mental health is support. This can come from family, friends or professionals. We all know that. But it can also be hard to connect with people in the first place depending on how your mental health problems affect you.
But did you know that gaming has a huge community built around it? Whilst some types of games have toxic communities, especially the likes of competitive shooters and MOBA (massive online battle arena) games, this certainly isn’t the case with all of gaming. For example, the retro gaming community is full of amazing people who you can connect with easily through a shared love of the art of video games. I have.
However, just getting that initial connection sometimes isn’t enough. Support is also needed. Yet that is another thing that is very common in the gaming community at large; many (not all, but a lot) of gamers typically have or have experienced mental health problems at some point in their life. Yes, that is a very sweeping statement, but let’s be honest; most people in the world have experienced them.
The difference that I have found is that a lot of (again, not all) gamers are more open and accepting of mental health problems that society in general. You’ll find many speak out about it regularly, trying to raise awareness of mental health. There are countless charity streams every year from gamers trying to raise both awareness and financial support for mental health problems! This means that, not only will you be welcomed into the community but you’ll also find and connect with people who are willing to listen and offer support.
And That’s All Folks
Well, it isn’t really. There are so many more ways that gaming can help you cope with mental health problems. But I just wanted to get the ball rolling and help people see that video games are not the evil media of hatred that they are so often portrayed as. Instead, video games and gamers can be a source of help and support for those with mental health problems.
Normally, I would pose a question to round off my post and ask you guys to comment below, but not this time. Instead, all I ask is that you help spread the word that video games can be really helpful for someone with mental health. Also, together, let’s all try and change the way society views mental health. As the father of Ellie Soutter (may she rest in peace) said recently; “it’s okay to not be okay”. Everyone suffers from mental health at some point. Talk about it with someone – talking is a far better option than any other plans you may have.