Written by Toralar | Edited by Denayed, Originally Posted: September 15, 2021
This is the first installment of a new series by Rally’s writers. Each post will bring a different perspective to the intersection of mental disorders and video gaming. These disorders affect everyone in different ways. The writers and their interview subjects do not speak for others, nor do they want to. Their experiences are specific only to them.
Whether I’m planting a new field of crops in Stardew Valley, shredding through ghouls and mutants in Fallout 76, vying for global domination in Civilization 6, or dying over and over again to Darius in League of Legends, video games have always been a safe place for me to escape to. This holds true for everyday stresses like work or family-related problems, as well as more serious issues brought on by depressive episodes.
Not every game is appealing to me when I’m dealing with mental health issues. Depending on how bad it gets, most of them honestly aren’t. On a normal day I’ll run the full gamut of games, playing anything from roguelike deckbuilding games to grand strategy games to MOBAs to turn-based tactics games. But when I’m struggling with depression, I turn to games that let me slip out of my head — and world — and into a different one.
Games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing are the best for this, in my opinion. Idyllic and simple worlds, where my most pressing concern is whether or not I can get the cosmetics I want, how to arrange a cobblestone pathway, how much money or materials I need for the next house upgrade, or what I need to find and do to unlock more collectibles and achievements.
In these games, I’m not a guy who can’t clean my living room or cook a full meal. I don’t have to be concerned about the future, about my bills, my debt, my work, or any of that. All of the conflicting thoughts (or lack thereof) in my brain can be temporarily put aside. There are more important things to consider, after all. Like how to perfectly arrange my farm buildings, how to get the most profits out of my slime ranch, or how to make NPCs like my character more.
Of course, it’s not a cure-all for my mental health. When my depression is at its worst, I’ll just sit at my desk and load up a game, stare at the main menu and then close it. Then I’ll do it again with a different game. And again. And again. And again. It doesn’t matter how much I love gaming during a severe episode. My brain just doesn’t respond to it, or much else, in any positive way.
When my depression isn’t that bad, though, video games provide a way for me to get outside my head and provide some relief from my drab, dull existence. Sure, maybe I can’t get myself to make dinner or fold my clothes, but I can focus on something I like and that helps me get by. And sometimes that’s enough.