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How gaming helps me overcome depression

I was diagnosed with depression just over 10 years ago. Looking back, I’m lucky I’ve had a means of escape, and that came in the form of my video game hobby. I started playing when I was a child. It made me happy. It transported me into worlds, characters and stories that I would never experience in real life, and in a way different to a good book or film.

At 15 I had an operation that reconstructed my lower jaw and I was bedridden for 4 months. I had no contact with anyone and my jaw was wired so speech was ruled out as no-one could understand me. It was summer, so why would my friends want to be stuck inside a bedroom with a visibly sick boy who couldn’t communicate? The only constant friend I had was my N64. While I could hear kids playing football outside, I could escape into the world of spies and intrigue in GoldenEye 64, adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario 64 or blow off some steam in Mario Kart. It gave me a form of communication and community with my friends and family – we couldn’t speak, but we played N64 and were able to connect.

Depression led me to make many mistakes, especially in my early 20s – amongst these was never dealing with it and shutting myself away. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was released at a crucial time in my development towards acceptance. It let me absorb myself into its world. It gave me a healthy escape from the inside of my head for long-stretches at time and it triggered the creative parts of my brain in allowing me to create my own stories. The emergent worlds of Oblivion and later Fallout, The Witcher and Dishonored kept me engaged and re-ignited my curious-self, a part of me that was sometimes missing, or dulled.

Gaming can foster a sense of community. When fighting depression, your first instinct can be to shun friends and family, but gaming can overcome this. Going back to the early days, this would come in the shape of ‘couch’ multiplayer or co-op. Despite everything, playing your favourite multiplayer game, sat next to another player is always a joyful experience. People that do this at conferences or expos can attest to it helping to form kinships with people you’ve just met. Of course, gaming has developed to the point were almost every game has a social aspect. Buy an Xbox One and pick up Titanfall and you HAVE to play with others, you’ve no choice. And you know what? It’s all the better for it.

Joining a good online community or getting involved with the social aspect of your favourite game could see you connecting with a vital new support structure. Gaming has the ability to bring people together from all walks of life and it’s part of who I am. Continue to do the things you love, seek help and talk about it. Let’s shout about the good things – how the LEGO series can bring children and adults together, how FIFA and Street Fighter can foster online communities across the world, and how Minecraft, Dishonored and Hitman can foster creative thinking and problem solving. And, yes, we should talk about how gaming can help people suffering with depression.

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