Depression: How video games have helped me

What do video games mean to you? For many, they are likely just a fun past time to help you unwind after a long day at work. Others, it’s a part of your career, whether that’s through journalism, playing esports, and making videos on Youtube or streaming. For me, video games mean a mixture of some of these and more. I’m normally quite shy to talk about my mental health, (a common issue amongst people today) but it is important to talk about it, as it is a problem many people deal with regularly.  I started suffering with depression a couple of years ago when I was a about seventeen, and it continues to affect me now. One thing that has helped me in coping with this is video games and today I want to explain to you how they have.

Video games, like books or films have an incredible trait in providing an escape from the struggles and problems in our lives, even if that might only be the case for a few hours. They drop us into the shoes of an established character or in some cases allow us to create our own. We’re placed in world and story that can have us laughing, crying, happy, scared and in many cases, attached to the world and the well written characters that leave us with such good memories. Games have helped me through depression for several reasons such as: well written and memorable characters, an engaging story, fun addictive gameplay mechanics to even the music. Obviously, this is a personal opinion, I’m not saying video games will help everyone, but they have for me. I’m going to talk about what types of games have been truly effective in helping me through my own experience with depression.

Puzzle Games:

Some of the best ways of fighting depression for me have been focusing on staying relaxed and keeping my mind busy. Due to this, puzzle games are particularly great in this regard. My personal favourites in this genre are The Witness, developed by Thekla and the Professor Layton series, developed by Level 5.

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If you haven’t played The Witness, you need to play it, it received critical acclaim upon its release and for good reason. You are placed onto an island with no idea who you are or why you are there. Within 20 seconds, you come to your first puzzle. There is no written explanation on how to complete this or any of the other puzzle’s, you must experiment with it until you work out this type of puzzle’s rules. They are so smartly designed and often have clues in the immediate environment to help you, and truly requires you to challenge your brain and think outside the box to complete it. This coupled with beautiful visuals, relaxing soundtrack and mysterious premise makes The Witness stand out as a unique experience that has helped me focus my thoughts into something difficult and clever rather than feelings of self-doubt.

There are so many aspects of the Professor Layton games that cannot help but make you smile and fall in love with them. From the very British gentlemen Hershel Layton himself with his ‘True Gentlemen’ catchphrases, to the upbeat music and absurdly designed characters and world. It’s a match made in heaven that has led it to become one of my favourite video game franchises. Its integration of puzzles with the story and world is both charming and hilarious. I wish in the real-world people would come up to me and give me a puzzle they were stuck on for me to solve. Or criminals letting you go or giving up their schemes because they forced you to do a tricky puzzle that you easily solved. The games have imaginative stories, with loveable characters that leave you wanting more adventures in this world. It’s because of its charming and often ludicrous take on our world that have made them incredible tools at helping me through particularly dark and difficult times in my depression. Transporting me into a fun, light-hearted version of Britain and other parts of the world. It’s a series that I will come back to often in the future.

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Story Driven Games:

Great stories have a way of staying with you regardless of the form it takes, after turning the last page in a book or when the credits role at the end of a movie or video game. There are many games that have incredibly written stories, often supplemented with deep, memorable characters. Good storytelling can sweep you away from the troubles of the outside world and place you into the shoes/role of an interesting character. It allows you to get lost in the world and its narrative for a few hours in a day. Here are a couple of games that have stood out for this reason.

What can I say more about the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that hasn’t already said by countless others? Simply, it deserves the huge praise it gets for good reason. It has a grand and compelling main story that covers family, love, loss of loved ones, humour and a good pinch of saving the world. It’s a story that truly owes its strength to the writing and to the diverse, multi-faceted characters central to the narrative. You become invested in these characters, such as Geralt, Yennefer, Triss and Ciri, that when anything happens to them, you really feel for them. Its side quests are some of the best designed I’ve ever played in an open world game, or game period. All these factors help the player lose themselves in the game that CD Projekt Red have crafted. It remains one of my favourite games of all time and one that I still think of long after finishing my 120-hour playthrough, containing some of the most memorable scenes in gaming for me.

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There are so many other story driven games that I could have mentioned that have help me with my mental health. However, there is one very unique game in particular that lingers in my mind even after just one playthrough. It is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Its central themes are of family and loss, with, as the name suggests, two brothers as the main characters. The story is about the brothers, after mourning the death of their mother, they must collect waters from the Tree of Life to save their sick father. The player controls the brothers at the same time, each requiring a separate analogue stick. It’s an odd setup that the player gradually gets used to alongside getting attached to these characters as the game progresses. Its true genius and pivotal point come when the older brother dies near the end. Its incredibly upsetting, but worse when you play the remainder of the game using only one analogue stick. A system that was odd at first, you got used to it, and then using just one stick like you normally would now feels wrong. It emphasises the loss of the brother in a creative way. Seeing how the younger brother deals with his loss is well designed and helped me see that my depression was not as bad as it could be, and I can deal and get through it.

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Now depression can be a tough topic to talk about, but I wanted in this blog post to tell people my experiences and how video games have been important in my life through fighting my depression. It’s our active engagement in a video games story, the challenges, characters and music that help us take our minds off the things we have going on in our lives. This is just one way, my personal reasons why video games can help with mental health. There are obviously many other ways that can be of help to you in your own circumstances, but one of the most important steps is to talk to people, it’s incredible how just talking to someone lets of so much pressure and anxieties. Whether it’s talking to a doctor, a friend, or most importantly a family member can make a huge difference.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it has proven enlightening and possibly helped you in any way. If you enjoyed this and want to seem more content on all things gaming, then consider subscribing and liking this post, it really helps me out.

2 thoughts on “Depression: How video games have helped me

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    1. I love the LEGO games as well. There’s something about them, they have this charm and humour that you can’t help but laugh at. The sound when you collect studs is just great.

      Like

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