I've been enjoying video games in some form or another for almost two decades, but more prevalently since I bought an Xbox 360 in 2007. What started out as an occasional hobby became something that I love doing, a place where I made friends and somewhere to distract me from suicidal thoughts and to make me feel happy. They are something I can do to focus on something other than how I feel; they can make you feel so many different things over the course of a story. They also allow you to go places you wouldn’t ordinarily go, places you wouldn’t imagine, both real and fictional.
I believe that video games can be a powerful tool when dealing with depression. In my own experience, it allows me a bit of breathing room, a chance to have a break and to try and to get on a good level again. Think of any other entertainment medium you might enjoy, movies, TV shows, and books particularly. The sorts of things you might love about them are all there in video games: the story, character development, the soundtrack, relationships, and a plethora of other things. The one thing that games have that other mediums do not is that to varying degrees is that you are in control of their actions, choices, skill set, and moral alignment. You are in control of the story and its pace; you can approach various challenges in unique ways and challenge others to do the same or better.
When I play video games, I get to be someone else for a while, a new character, with something to achieve and to work towards. I get to be involved in someone else's story for a while. I don't have to be the person who struggles with social situations but wants to socialize without risking a panic attack. I get to not feel so lonely when I'm playing as a character because as I play as them I get to form different relationships with a load of other characters. Getting attached to characters helps; it allows me to feel things other than anxiety or the oppressive burden of depression. You ride their high and you help deal with their lows; you go on a journey with them and you follow it to a conclusion.
I get to escape for a while, go to a different world, go on adventures with a variety of characters, and surround myself with a new world. Being immersed in a story or character or world is relaxing. Being able to go and explore somewhere else takes me away from my own thoughts and my own reality. The escapism feels like it takes a weight off my shoulders and provides a light to the darkness. I can get absorbed in the visuals or the more; I can get attached to the characters, feel for them; I can roleplay as someone else. This allows feeling something other than the oppressive density of my own thoughts.
I know many people might see the violence, gore, certain themes, and language in video games as detrimental to someone’s mental state and I can understand some of the arguments that sort those points of view in some cases. I’m certainly not saying video games should be used as a form of therapy, but from personal experience those things that people off can sometimes feel cathartic. Being able to take out frustrations and pent-up feelings on virtual drone feels like a less sweaty version of beating a punching bag. It allows for a release in a way, like squeezing a stress ball, you can take out your frustrations without hurting anyone.
It may just be escapism, but sometimes escapism can be just what you need to be able to recalibrate how you are and how you’re thinking and feeling. It’s refreshing to take a break from reality for a while to get a chance to catch your breath and refocus. Besides everyone needs a way out for a while.