Depression And Gaming
Depression – how gaming helps me
What does gaming mean to you?
For many it’s a favourite past time, or a way to enjoy the weekend. For others, it’s a way to unwind at the end of a hard day’s work, or maybe it’s part of your job role and you’re lucky enough to work in the industry.
For me, a lot of those things form part of my reasoning for loving gaming, but other factors play a part too.
When it started
I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 12. I was so young and I didn’t understand it at all. It still affects me to this day and I know now that Iwill never live a day without it.
One of the things that has helped me to manage the symptoms is my love of gaming.
Gaming was introduced to me at the tender age of 8. My brother had the incredible Sega Megadrive, and to accompany it, Street Fighter II. He needed someone to beat up and, as he wasn’t allowed to IRL, this was the next best thing. We would play for hours! It was pixelated, distorted, bitty and irritating, but I loved it!
I then found the Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge (ha! Remember cartridges?!) which had been hidden from me for what seemed like an eternity and I was hooked!
I lost myself in the world of Sonic – collecting rings, bashing the little critters that were trying to attack me – I remember the panic of thinking Sonic was going to drown and then finding one of those delightful air bubbles to keep me going in the game for that little bit longer.
Fast forward a few years; I’d had the diagnosis a couple of years previous and I found myself getting lost in the storylines of countless books, in the characters of as many films as I could get my hands on, and at some point it just clicked; I was looking for the escape that I’d found years earlier in the little spiky blue guy on my screen!
All these forms of media work in a similar way - they create a world away from reality. Even if it’s just for an hour or two, we can get away from the daily struggles we find ourselves in and escape!
Gaming allowed me to jump in to the shoes of an established character, or create my own, and forget about the thoughts and feelings that I was constantly battling.
By this point in time my brother had the first Xbox but I wasn’t allowed to join in (what are big brothers for anyway!?). I was, however, allowed to borrow his Gameboy Advance which I had great fun with.
I Got Older…
As much as I loved gaming, I was always far too academic and any requests for purchases were far more educational than something to play games on, so the first gaming device of my own that I ever had was the Nintendo DS, when I turned 14. I loved that little thing. As a child I’d always loved animals so one of my go-to-games was Nintendogs – I went for the one with the Labrador of course! I kept that little guy alive for as long as I could, I promise!
The DS introduced me to other forms of gaming too. I found Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and those puzzles were great! It was also my first real introduction to anything Mario (I know, I was incredibly late to the party!)
I eventually got my hands on Super Mario Bros 2 – the one with all the minigames – and I loved that!
Both the Brain Training and the mini games on Mario really helped me to focus and keep my brain occupied – something which I find really helpful with my depression. Puzzle games were often key for me!
What about now?
As I grew older, went to university and got a job, I inevitably found myself making those more considered purchases myself, but I didn’t venture away from handheld until around 4 years ago, when I bought an Xbox One S, and I’ve only upgraded once since. I still own a DS Lite and have since bought a Nintendo Switch too, so my love of handheld remains, but I developed a new found respect for the expansive story driven games I found myself diving into on the Xbox.
I’d spent many an evening watching my boyfriend playing Destiny 2, and decided it was a game I wanted to play. I’d been playing Sonic (I’ll always love it), Ori, Spyro and Crash Bandicoot but I took the plunge into something much more immersive, and I thrived!
I absolutely LOVE Destiny 2. It really gave me the chance to develop a character how I wanted it to be – and the storyline had me hooked from the start.
I get lost for hours and it’s my go to. I even spent my New Years Eve 2020playing it! We found ourselves in the Tower at Midnight and had a little party with our emotes – we even had a guy on the decks! (Well, not like we could have gone out-out in 2020 was it!)
That sense of community (especially during the pandemic) was so key to me coping with the daily struggles my depression throws at me – and I wouldn’t have had that escape had gaming not been a part of my life. I felt connected to the outside world, all from the safety of my living room. And that was so important.
Depression is a tough topic to discuss, but by having these escapes in my life – be that gaming, reading, watching a film or any other of the ways I like to clear my mind and focus – it gives my brain the space it needs to compute the day/week and reflect.
Gaming is one of the many ways I cope with living with depression. It allows me the capacity to discuss how I’m feeling, and talking about it is the absolute key! Whoever you talk to – a doctor, relative, friend – it can make a big difference!
I know I’ll continue to game for as long as I’m able – my eyes may give up and maybe my thumbs won’t thank me for the years of thumbstick use – but at that point I’ll take up scrabble and start on some puzzles. 😉
“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars” – Richard Evans
Below are some links to some recognized support sources, should you find yourself in need:
Men’s Health Forum:
Mental Health Foundation:
There are a lot of other options available; you can find many on the below NHS site: