I first started playing video games since I was just a little bit older than 3 years old. I started out with PC gaming with games much above my age range such as Doom, Wolfenstein, Heretic, Lego games and much more. I have played video games almost my whole 25 years on this planet. I also have suffered from bipolar disorder and struggled with thoughts of suicide almost just as long. Since my early years, depression and anxiety were a part of my everyday life and this often has peaked into suicidal episodes throughout my life. While now I am more stable then I have ever been, thanks to the support of both my loving wife and the adoration of my two daughters. But it was not always this way, there was a time when video games were the only thing there for me. I am going to talk about those experiences now, and encourage people to share their own struggles openly.
Video games and mental health are often a common conversation point. Ever since I can remember people have long associated poor mental health with video games. Music and video games have often taken the brunt of criticism from mainstream media, especially after such tragedies such as the Columbine shooting in the 90s was one such example. However, I feel that video games as a whole provide more support then harm to people that may suffer in silence. Video games have often been a haven for those who are having deep seeded personal fights with their inner thoughts.
I was bullied a lot growing up, I was gangly, tall and awkward. I struggled through school my whole life, was never smart enough to fit in with the academics and too much of a dork to fit in with the cool crowd. I dreaded every day of getting up and having to face my day. Another day of being embarrassed about who I was, and what I enjoyed, but one thing always got me through those days. What is it you may ask? It was a video game developed by BioWare called Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I joke about my love for this game on a regular basis. However, that game unlike a lot of the people in my life at that time, it was always there for me.
I remember being 9 years old, my parents had been fighting endlessly and like most children, I immediately took it on my shoulders that it was my fault. Then after a particularly bad bullying session that day, I came home and wanted nothing more than to die. I came home and sat in my room for an hour, with a knife and walked myself through it several times. I kept looking at my computer and looking at my Baldurs Gate II discs that always sat in a pile on my desk. I managed to calm myself, by inserting the game into my computer and starting a new playthrough. It seems like such a silly thing, to go from contemplating to killing yourself to starting a new playthrough in your favorite game. As insane as it is, music and especially video games have helped ground me through some of the darkest moments of my life. Games like, Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn, God of War, and Fallout were just some of these games that made me forget about how hard things got.
Video games are such a unique medium in which to experience. Even in the lowest parts of my life, whether delivered through humor in the dialogue or by achieving/completing a hard quest the rush of happiness and excitement can’t be denied. While watching films you can become invested in the character, as you become emotionally involved in the mortality of that character. In video games, you really feel like you “could” be that character. Whether channeling my rage as Kratos and terrorizing the gods of Olympus or simply making a farm on Harvest Moon. It allows someone who may want to escape the bad parts of their life, to find a space of peace in which to reflect. Understanding that sometimes life can be challenging and having something you love to dedicate some time to can sometimes be all you need. Now it is important to note that moderation is always an important part of life.
The past few years we have had many games that have begun to take on the challenge of talking about mental health. Games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Celeste has all done fantastic jobs of diving into the struggle of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and more. It’s a topic that we as a society are making steps forward in, however, there is still a lot that needs to happen. However, having games tackling these difficult topics that target such a wide audience as video games are monumental. Games have the ability to tell unique stories and show us a perspective we may not have seen before. For me personally, video games have kept me sane in some of the hardest moments of my life. I would not be here today if I had not had this outlet in my formative years. I am grateful so many developers share their passion for storytelling and dedication to the medium. While even to this day I struggle with my mental health, video games continue to be an outlet for my depression, and anxiety.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. If this helped or was relatable in some way to you, remember you are never alone. If this was not relatable to you, I hope I was able to show you at least a small piece of why video games are so important to me.