Gaming and mental health revisited again

Gaming and mental health revisited again

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This week’s photos are from Chinese New Year a few years ago. Happy New Year.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.

A young girl in a bright yellow dress dances at Chinese New Year events.

Gaming re-revisited

Over a year ago I wrote about gaming and mental health. Can games help with depression? Are they the virtual equivalent to going for a walk or a run? As I played a variety of games last year I tried to be conscious of whether they helped with depression or not. I’ve been playing;

  • No Man’s Sky – space based exploration
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – GTA but in cowboy times
  • Avengers – story based third person action adventure
  • Death Stranding – walking sim
  • Cities Skylines – modern Sim City clone
  • Stellaris – space based real time strategy
  • The Final Fantasy XIV queue screen – MMORPG if you can get on it
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – story based FPS with RPG elements
  • Animal Crossing – erm… you pay off debts and decorate your house sim?
  • Pokémon Go – walk around and catch Pokemon
  • Pokémon Stay (Shield) – story driven Pokemon collector game
  • ASOS find something pretty in your size and in stock Simulator
  • Microsoft Flight Sim – a flight sim by Microsoft no less

After trying a variety of games I found nothing helped. At least there was no clear antidote to depression for me. They entertained for a short time but an activity I could do when massively depressed to bring myself out of it? Nope. There was no game that held my attention or shone so bright that I wanted to play it while depressed. I did my usual thing of muddling through a meaningless existence waiting for my brain to reboot and be ok.

I read an article recently that discussed depression and gaming. What worked for this person was playing a certain type of game and being aware of what didn’t work in similar games. Some open world games like GTA, Minecraft or No Man’s Sky are too open world. You can do anything but what exactly? I guess there’s the story but if it doesn’t grab you you get bored once you’ve played with the physics engine. They found games like Skyrim (fantasy RPG game), that are open world but with a set of tasks to complete, meant that they had freedom but also purpose.

I can relate to that. There are games I play and enjoy but find it hard to return to. I need a to-do system in the app. I’m currently playing Pupperazzi and its delightful because you get 3 tasks per level which you can approach in any way you see fit. It’s a relaxing fun game that is open but with tasks. Games like this are good for my mental health. I have fun and I get a sense of achievement. You could say that about a lot of games but it there’s a big learning curve to get into it then I’m going to find it hard to return to. Ollie Ollie World, a skate boarding game, comes out in a few days. It looks amazing but just like with real world skate boarding there is a learning curve to build muscle memory. I know that my ADHD brain will be excited for a day, then bored and wanting a new shiny thing the day after. Why even bother? Which leads me to feeling depressed that there’s no games I can play. But there are. I just need to be aware of my needs.

Along with Pupperazzi, which I’m only really playing on Friday night on my Twitch channel, I’m currently playing Pokémon Arceus and enjoying its refreshing take on Pokémon games. It’s well structured so you can play for 5 minutes or an hour. Tasks are open for you to do when you want. Goals are achievable. Joy is possible. If I forget about it due to ADHD I can return to it because it is familiar. There’s no epic 6 year story I need to try and remember or wild control method to adapt to. Games like this are good for me.

I’ve used the term “mental health” in this article. Gaming can certainly be good for your mental health, for your wellbeing, just as going for a walk can be. My problem might stem from trying to play a game to cure crippling depression and feeling like I failed. You wouldn’t go for a walk to fix heart disease but going for a walk is good for your physical health. Games are good but I need actual help because I’m ill. Maybe if I can accept that I can let go of the need for gaming to fix me and simply enjoy games?

A bold red dragon dances outside a resturant at Chinese New Year.

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