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Video games and my mental health

August 25, 2016

I've been playing video games since I was around 6. When I was younger, I played games simply because they were fun. As I got older and games got more and more complex in their gameplay and storytelling, I find myself sometimes playing games for different reasons. Sometimes I'll play a game that forgoes gameplay for a good story; Telltale Games' The Walking Dead is a good example. Regardless of the type of game I'm playing and what I get out of it, games are an escape for me. Lately, I haven’t had much time to play games, and I’ve realized something: I’ve been angrier and more stressed in my day-to-day life.

As I have gotten older, I've realized that I can release a lot of my pent-up anger through violent video games like Grand Theft Auto V. It seems that every time some whacked-out teenager shoots someone, people blame violent video games. I'd like to think that most of us are smart enough to know that no television show, movie, book, or video game is responsible for someone's actions in the real world. GTA V was very controversial because of its over-the-top violence, cursing, and the infamous torture scene, but it's one of my favorite games of all time. To this day, it's my go-to game if I want to unwind after a long day. Even after completing the story mode, there is so much to do and see. There's nothing like standing in the middle of the street in Los Santos, waiting for traffic to pile up, and then throwing a bunch of grenades at the cars to wreak havoc on the city. When I'm doing this, I forget about all my real-world struggles and just enjoy the big, beautiful city of Los Santos. GTA V is a special game that I always feel comfortable playing. I’ve shared laughs over that game with my friends more than any other, and I definitely feel less stressed after I play it.

Developer Campo Santo's Firewatch is one of my favorite games of the year so far. The environment along with the soundtrack makes me feel at ease, and I love playing it because I really feel like I'm in Henry's shoes exploring the wilderness. I just get lost in it.  

Probably the most relaxing game I've ever played is thatgamecompany's Journey. It's therapeutic, and it's a game I play now and again when I really want to relax and unwind. I can almost feel my blood pressure going down when I play it. I love the environments, and especially the soundtrack. 

On the other hand, I have noticed that some games make my anxiety worse. Complicated UI and weird controls tend to frustrate me and make me feel overwhelmed. When I can't figure out where to go, I get very anxious; my heart starts to pound faster and my palms get sweaty. I have yet to play No Man's Sky, but its impressively massive world makes me feel a little intimidated. Will I have time to explore as much as I'd like to? Will I know where to go? Will I even like the game? I realize these are first-world problems, but these are things I think and worry about.

I need to find more time to play games because my mental health depends on it. I may not be able to play certain games at times depending on how severe my anxiety is that day, but there is always a game to play that will make me happy and relaxed. Just like writing in my journal and attending my weekly yoga class, playing video games is great for my mental health and overall well-being. I like to play games alone because games are very personal for me. I think I'll schedule a date with Tales from the Borderlands this weekend.

How do video games affect your mental health? Do they help or hurt you? Talk to me on Twitter: @gottosaurus.

  • Cassie is a 20-something gamer, social media guru, writer, music lover, and photographer from the Milford, Delaware area. She has a passion for video games that started when she was given an NES Top Loader as a young child. Super Mario Bros. was the first game she ever played, and it's still one of her favorite games to this day. She also has a love for photography, and most enjoys photographing animals and children. Her favorite games are The Last of Us and Uncharted 3, and her hype for Uncharted 4 is immeasurable. Follow her on... Instagram | Twitter | Twitch

    Cassie also has a photography blog, CGW Photos, here on BeachPaper.com. You can also follow her on Instagram.