Today I intend to discuss a little about how games – any kind of game – can be a useful way to look after your own mental and emotional state of being in various ways. This may well become increasingly useful in the future, for more people than just the kind of gamers who are likely to read this blog. Do consider the gift of a game this holiday season, if you know someone who might benefit from it.
Gaming, at the core of it, is about having a good time; originally with friends, in a social situation, but solitary versions cropped up almost immediately. Today, there’s an amazing wealth of ways of play games, both with others and by yourself. This is good, as games cover a wide range of ways to look after your mental state.
Some games may simply help you relax; I’ve logged more than a few hours in Starbound as a farmer on an otherwise empty planet, tending crops and collecting material from the animals I’ve raised. It’s simple and soothing, the kind of thing that lets me occupy the surface of my thoughts while the rest of my mind winds down from things. Other people have their own versions of this; my wife and my mother both play games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled to pass the time and relax.
Then there are games with catharsis as the goal; I play Rift because it gives me a supply of things to take frustration out on, bursts of accomplishment when I get an achievement or finish a quest, and ample visual entertainment to make me feel happy with the game. It’s a stress release valve that other games have previously filled and which still others things will likely fill in the future. Another person I know tends to play much more explosive games such as Planetside 2 and the like; it fills the same purpose.
Then there are the one that fill my social needs, and my needs as a teller of stories. Tabletop games fill both of these needs, giving me vocal access to people who share some of the same ways of thinking that I have and letting me fill the need for camaraderie. For all my introverted ways, I still need contact with people who can understand me. More than that, games let me tell stories to help the others in my group; I can give them a world where they can be straight-up heroes and where good can definitively triumph over evil, something the real world is often critically short on. Here more than anywhere, games can be important to mental health. It gives us a reminder that we, too, can be heroes.
Those same games can let us be who we want to be, as well; games can let trans people who are still in the closet be themselves for a time, let us all play an ideal version of ourselves, and serve to let us be a hero for a time. That space to simply be ourselves can be important for anyone who plays games. If it lets us find like minds to share the burdens, so much the better.
Ultimately, games can be a form of self-care that let us face the world from a better place than we’re in when we sit down to play. That alone is enough reason to make and play them.