E3 has begun! It’s here! Announcements galore! What new joys are to be unleashed upon us! Xbox One! Playstation 4! Call of Duty! Halo! Nintendo!
Ah… I’m sorry. I can’t get enthused. This is due to a lot of contributing reasons; the pessimistic burnout from the next gen consoles thus far, a general lack of passion about games, and also one major contribution: my own depression.
Yes, readers of Nerfed, I am a depressive. A manic depressive, to boot. That du jour mental illness that all the cool kids are talking about. Except, it isn’t cool, nor is it fun or a reason to garner sympathy from friends and work forces alike. It’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week growing irritation that seems to abate only to then hit you upside the head. Recently, the major face of Manic Depression, Stephen Fry, came out and spoke of a recent suicide attempt, and said some rather true words about what it is like to have it. Read the article, it’s very helpful in understanding the mind-state of a manic depressive.
But what does this have to do with games? Well, plenty actually. Not just the malaise in regards to recent gaming news and such, but also what gaming does for a person of depressive tastes. As mentioned, my passion for gaming has nose-dived plenty in recent months, to the point where I haven’t played a console game in a long time. The last one, should memory serve, was All Zombies Must Die, which I only played to show my girlfriend. I haven’t touched my weeping joy, Borderlands 2, for ages, and when I did I barely enjoyed it. As for the Game of the Year, Bioshock Infinite, well… the aspirations to jump in and collect everything petered out as soon as the disc was out the drive.
Suffice to say, gaming hasn’t helped me recently. Mainly because I’ve refused to let it.
Because gaming does help at times. It helps you enter another world, become another person. It distracts you from the real life issues that may be weighing you down. It gives you the chance to feel like you can achieve something, rather than be absolutely useless. Gaming gives you an out, from a world that you may feel refuses to give you anything at all.
Think of something like Fallout or Elder Scrolls. A big, open-world game which immerses you as whatever character you choose to be, sends you off into a world of adventure where you can either perform quests, become a fellow villager in the realm, or do something silly like throw mines around a village. These games allow you some form of escapism that you may need when mired in a dredge of your own mental form. In addition, open-world MMOs like World of Warcraft and Knights of the Old Republic not only give you that escapism, but also the feeling of being part of a group. It gives you a feeling that you’re not alone, and that there are others like you who not only want to help you, but want you to help them. That feeling of being involved, being part of and even essential to something, can really boost a faltering self-esteem.
Even getting lost in the numbers or bureaucracy of a Sim City or Football Manager can give that feeling of escapism. You may not be good at something in real life, but you can gain a sense of achievement from building a megolopolis from scratch, or guiding a lower league team to the top of the Premiership, all off your own back. Add the glorious ping of an Xbox achievement as well, and that rush of adrenaline that comes with such a thing can only help bring you back from the brink.
But sometimes, when you’re away from the brink, you’re still angry. So games like Borderlands, Saints Row and Far Cry can help unleash that rage in a healthy(ish), and non-destructive manner. Better to lay waste to group of deer with a grenade than smash up your own belongings in a fit of hurt.
Games have a big role to play in battling depression, but like most things it is about taking that first step. This is easier said than done, and I hold my hands up as a hypocrite for not doing them. Am I scared? Or do I just lack the drive? Either way, I can only recommend to anyone who is suffering to sit down with a controller in hand, or even their laptop, and lose themselves if you feel utter shit.
You never know, it may bring a smile to your face.