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How videogames helped me through depression

Last year I was in a terrible place, recently diagnosed with depression. I spent most of my holidays alone, panicking and worrying about certain things that now seem quite insignificant when I look back on them.

Even when people tried to talk to me I would be unwilling and brush them off. I saw doctors and was put on some weird-looking antidepressants but I still felt a little empty. Some people fall back on drugs and alcohol  whilst some escape with books or hobbies. I owe a lot to my friends, family and  video games, and chances are without them I wouldn’t be writing this article.

Many researchers have begun to delve into the psychological effects and uses of video games. This can be attributed to games becoming a thriving titan of mainstream media, or perhaps to the fear of potential adverse effects on the human mind.

One of the most appealing factors of gaming are the worlds and locations that can be explored. A player can step into the shoes of any character you can imagine, especially considering the expansive PC modding community. The fact that someone suffering from depression can escape into another world to forget their troubles is brilliant, but this form of surreal escapism is a double edged sword.

Dysfunctional gaming is a condition where accumulating too much time within a game can negatively conflict with your real life in a non-productive way, something of a death wish for those already within the clutches of depression.

If you’re feeling awful then you probably don’t care about the consequences of gaming and how detrimental it can be to your lifestyle. Studies have confirmed that video games can simultaneously combat symptoms of depression but also worsen others, which somewhat justifies the scepticism some individuals have about the medium.

I couldn’t care less when I invested over 30 hours into Fallout 3 throughout the previous holiday, but this sense of escapism and detachment made my family and friends aware of my depression, and things got better from there.

It isn’t just the consumers who have gone through bouts of depression and tackled them with the power of video games. Greg Miller, an editor for IGN.com was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011 and documented his journey through chemotherapy and remission with a number of emotional yet inspirationally cheerful video diaries.

This is arguably the most public case of how video games have helped combat the effects of depression Greg Miller acknowledged his own depression early on in his treatment, and quickly pushed passed it. He embraced the online community that supported him, showing that the situation can always get better.

It was a joy watching such a passionate gamer remain confident and happy in the face of cancer, and keeping people smiling and entertained is the icing on the cake.

Independent games are more widespread than ever before, but small budgets and a lack of support can lead to spiralling depression that can often cling onto people. Alexander Bruce, the creator of 2013’s critically acclaimed Antichamber, suffers from an intricate case of depression, as well as Asperger’s syndrome.

Alexander came to terms with the stress and turmoil the creative process of video games had on him and how his behaviour affected those around him, and took time away from something he loved to piece his life back together.

There are times when making video games can do damage, especially those who invest so much time into crafting something only to have it blow up in their face; thankfully for Alexander that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately a number of talents of the industry have succumbed to depression, whether this be due to public ridicule or personal reasons beyond their workplace. 

When was the last time you played a video game? How did you feel when you played it? You probably had fun, or got frustrated, maybe all of those things. The number of emotions that can be encompassed through the medium of video games is mind-blowing, and it’s this myriad of varying feelings that help us fight depression, that help us to cope and fend off the dark possibility of suicide, self-harm and further depression.

It might just be a hobby to some people but the effect video games have on modern society, negative and positive, shouldn’t be underestimated, and neither should depression. If you’re ever feeling depressed, your first port of call is to talk to someone, it doesn’t matter who it is, just get the message out there, but if sinking your time and imagination into a virtual world helps, then go ahead and do that as well, and have fun doing it.

The Student Life Centre (now in Bramber House) offers free support and advice to students.

Email: studentlifecentre@sussex.ac.uk

Tel: 01273 87 6767

Jordan King

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One Comment

  1. Very enlightening. Very interesting article. Moreover very openminded. Made me retihink about video games…

    Reply

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