Video Games and Depression – How do they correlate?

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I had seen discussions here and there where video games had been said to be great coping mechanisms for depression and anxiety. But are they really? This is a topic I’m going to focus on today.

[HorribleSubs] Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.26_[2016.05.15_22.19.06]

First off, video games are just like any other media such as anime, movies or books — they offer a different worldview for you to invest in. Video games however bring it up a notch further by including interactions in it. You can control and interact your fate in the game, as compared to reality where you have little to no control at all, and honestly, it doesn’t take rocket science to know which one sounds more appealing.

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Games are great coping mechanism, because they have “virtual worries” perfect for distraction from your “real life worries”. Why should I worry about depressing crap like my bleak-as-hell future when I can just worry about getting materials for my armor in Monster Hunter? Being able to hunt down monsters thrice the size of myself and finally being able to get the materials I need for my equipment feels super rewarding. I guess what I’m trying to say is that games are perfect distraction, by immersing yourself into “virtual worries”, it can help distract you from your depression and all those feeling of helplessness that you just can’t do anything worthwhile in life. Furthermore, as I have highlighted, you’re in control and living the life of your avatar, who’s cool and badass as fuck and takes down giant monsters thrice the size of himself, and all in all, it feels extremely satisfying-it feels like you’re actually accomplishing something as compared to how you’re stuck in the purgatory known as life in the real world.

Indeed, you are living life through these characters vicariously, whether or not it’s hunting down massive monsters in Monster Hunter, or shooting down helicopters in GTA 5, or cutting down massive hordes of enemies in Dynasty Warriors. There’s just a sort of “release” here, especially from games like these — it’s like punching something really, really hard in an attempt to vent all your bottled up anger and stress, only that you’re doing this with video games. I assume this is why zombie games is a genre so popular even to these days, as they seem to satisfy this need quite nicely.

Me in GTA, while I adjust my stupidly cool sunglasses.

Me in GTA, while I adjust my stupidly cool sunglasses.

Of course, this feeling doesn’t necessarily has to come from all these badassery and Michael Bay-like explosions however. I’m usually not too fond of Nintendo overselling themselves as a “fun consoles for kids”, but in this case, it also helps tremendously in coping with depression. Nintendo is especially good with instilling nostalgia, love and creativity around that most of their games are just so fun, cute and nostalgic to play with. I mean, there’s a reason why series like Mario are still going so strong today. Honestly, I don’t play these games that much but it sort of reminds me of how some of us feel from watching moe/slice of life anime or playing similar games of that nature (Neptunia, Atelier, etc…), in that they are all extremely therapeutic.

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Even Kentaro Miura, mangaka of one of the darkest, depressing, grueling manga I ever known in Berserk, ended up playing idolm@ster. If he’s playing it just to lighten up his life of constantly drawing depressing stuffs, I can totally understand. If he feels like he wants to stop drawing Berserk for awhile then all the best for him. I read a majority of Berserk myself and the gruesomeness is really nothing to sneeze at. Honestly, if he needs to take a break then let him. The only thing I’m worried about is his quality in im@s waifu, as I’m sure his waifu is shit compared to my refined tastes.

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I praised games so much being a therapeutic medium to cope with depression and anxiety, but on the other side of the coin, games are like a double-edged sword. You sit there and play them non-stop for awhile and you will feel like you’re wasting a great deal of your time, it feels like you don’t have a life outside of your “power fantasy”-and the realization that everything you accomplished is completely virtual, and that you still barely done anything productive in real life; that realization that games are pretty much just a “distraction”, an escapism, can really dampen one’s spirit.

[HorribleSubs] Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.11_[2016.02.18_13.43.48]

This is the one reason why I stayed off of MMOs nowadays, from what I experienced, these games really encourage you to sit and grind there for hours on end, and is really not something I would like to dabble in considering my circumstances. Slightly relevant, this is also the same reason why I stayed off of multiplayer games, whether or not it’s co-op or competitive, both requires you to spend more time than is necessary, catching up with your peers’ levels and skills. Admittedly, Monster Hunter is largely a multiplayer game as well, but I had been spending my entire time on it alone — I’m a lonely gamer.

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But in the end, what does that tell you about video games and how do they correlate with depression? This is a really shitty conclusion after everything I wrote, but just like with everything, balance is key. Use games as a coping mechanism and a distraction, but don’t rely on them too heavily as a form of escapism. Although when you think about it, this doesn’t necessarily just apply to games but all things in general, as they say “too much of anything is bad”. Take your games in small doses and don’t play them anymore than is necessary.

Last but not least, play more cute games. As they always say, cuteness is justice, and moe is the embodiment of cuteness. Moe can save people’s lives, moe is our one true savior in this depressing world where we have no control over our own fates. Get more moe in your life.

[HorribleSubs] No Game No Life - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.49_[2016.02.18_13.56.46]

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This entry was posted by Kai.

12 thoughts on “Video Games and Depression – How do they correlate?

  1. I can’t say I suffer from depression, but I do get incredibly stressed at times. When it comes to that I find that really good stories (in games, anime or VNs) go a long way toward helping me feel better…it’s less about escapism and more about the dopamine rush that comes with a really thrilling plotline I think.

    That said, if i’m ever -really- down then some absorbing gameplay will do the trick. As you say, though, balance is the order of the day and you need to make sure you’re doing something about your problems (small as your steps toward fixing them may be) and not relying on games to get you through each day.

    I was really social back when I was playing WoW but now I tend to go solo. You mentioned that MMOs take huge amounts of time and I agree wholeheartedly, especially when you consider commitments to other players. Multiplayer is fantastic when you find the right group, though. Very few things can beat a good gaming session with friends…unfortunately i’ve moved to the ass-end of the country where none of mine live T_T

    • Yeah, anime and VNs with great stories satisfy another need for me just like with games with depression.The thing about games is that they have interactive gameplay, something others don’t, and like you said, an absorbing gameplay is great to help distract you from all the problems you may have in life.

      I’m sure multiplayer will be fun if you find the nice group you can easily hang out with in games. There’s just… none here though, and even if I do want to play with online friends, almost all of them live in different parts of the world with different time zones, pretty hard to get together like that, lol

  2. Games can’t help with serious depressions, but help to fight stress and boredom.
    For a short while Games can lighten up your mood, especially good games can do that. You just can dive into a world more interesting and different than your own. A good stress killer are VN’s you meet cute girls, have an interesting/entertaining story and sometimes you also get romantic with the girls and have cute sex XD
    J-RPG are great stuff, too. saving the world, traveling with nice comrades to different locations. Man with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky I played the best game in my life so far ;D

    I always failed to make friends in MMO, so after two months or so, it’s ultra boring. In more or less open games I will start to feel remorse quickly, like I totally wasted my time. If things go wrong MMO crap can probably make you feel worse

    • The thing about boredom — is that it’s actually quite dangerous when you’re in depression. When you start getting bored, you sit there and look at the ceiling with nothing to do, that’s when the depressing thoughts seep in. That’s why games are so good, they can help me distract myself for hours on end, lol.

      Yeah, JRPGs are great. They usually have great worlds and atmospheres, and the medieval and fantasy kinds are always good because their worlds just look so unique, foreign and magical compared to our own boring, realistic one. Also glad you are liking Legend of Heroes, one of my favorite games now :D Did you played FC as well?

      I think I can make friends in MMO, though it depends on the community as well (some MMO community is shit, lol) but putting aside the time that I need to grind in them, the other major problem I have with them is different time zones with other players, it’s just hard to get together like that.

  3. Indeed, embrace the moe, cute and the sweet, because life already gives plenty of bitter, harsh pills to chug down :’D
    As someone with depression, anime&games/media let me hang in there as I wethered a lot of suicidal thoughts, until I stopped having them, so I’m very grateful to them. I do agree that if you get too into them, they’ll be a double-edged sword that will make you feel depressed you are nothing like you see or play as.
    They’re great for unwinding and destressing tho, so they’ll forever siren me in forever (✿☯‿☯✿)
    Man, MMO’s…I only played some years ago and they were a super time sink, which nowadays I eschew + no one to play with, so they’re not worth it ¯\_༼ ಥ ‿ ಥ ༽_/¯

    • I’m not sure if I qualify to give you advice, but glad nonetheless that you stopped having suicidal thoughts. Yeah, it’s important to balance it out, playing too much games can seriously do a number on your mind (much less your physical health), at the very least, have breaks in between, lol.

      “They’re great for unwinding and destressing”
      Yeah, pretty much. That’s what I keep stressing on, games are great for “distractions”, not a source for escapism.

      Well in short, MMO is shit.

      • It’s fine and thank you! ( ・ω・)ノ
        Everything in the moderation is key~
        Definitely agree they’re a real good distraction, and when you return from them, it seems like issues are smaller 〜(꒪꒳꒪)〜

  4. I think escapism might be slightly better than voyeuorism, by which I mean the tendecy to treat the news and the media as a joke, something that concers you only to be laughed at.

  5. “Last but not least, play more cute games. As they always say, cuteness is justice, and moe is the embodiment of cuteness. Moe can save people’s lives, moe is our one true savior in this depressing world where we have no control over our own fates. Get more moe in your life.”

    Thank you. Yes to this.

  6. I’m intrigued to note the seeming drift towards solo play.

    (despite being a computer programmer for nearly 30 years) I have played computer games very little. Spent some time in the late 90s and early 2000s with strategy games like Civilization, and in the 90s in general with the early computer RPGs such as the “Gold Box” series from SSI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Box). Though, I really do NOT like the D&D game system, it was really the only game for the computer in town at the time for a while. And in the last few years as my son got old enough to be interested in them I’ve watched him play FPS and other things on our x-box, I’ve tried a few things (Dragon Age, Alice: Madness Returns, Halo, etc), but I just don’t really get into them.

    However, I played a LOT of pen-and-paper RPG, from when I was introduced to D&D in 1978 to my last GURPS based Imperial Rome campaign in 96. The reasons I stopped playing had more to do with my (ex)wife’s disapproval than my own desire to play, though once we moved in 96 I had trouble finding a new group so I sort of drifted away from it. Given a choice, I’d pick pen-and-paper rpgs over computer games, solo or multi-player, hands down. I guess I’m there more for the group interaction than anything else. When my warrior/mage/whatever put the smack-down on the Bad Guys it was always more enjoyable to share it with others around the table, and pen-and-paper offers FAR more flexibility in interactions than any computer driven game can ever hope to achieve.

    So, where am I going with this? I’m not sure yet either.

    I was really disappointed with “Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?” (the anime). I felt it really missed a chance to explore the issue it promised in the setup. Ako went from someone presented as a real basket case to more or less group functional without much fuse, really. To my understanding, the manga may have been a little edgier (for instance, apparently the scene where Ako first met “Nekohime” (the teacher) was not nearly as potentially dangerous as it was in the manga).

    Ah, my point I guess. Watching anime is, as you pointed out, fairly non-interactive. But like others here I watch (and, sometimes, rewatch) certain types of shows specifically to unwind/relax/forget/immerse. Maybe it does help do just that. For instance, I may not be laughing, but at the end the episode of certain types of shows I realize I’ve been smiling for 25 minutes. That can’t do anything but help. But, like with the computer RPG where I decided they just didn’t scratch my itch, once I’ve done watching an anime (or read a manga), I feel like I’ve missed something. Don’t get me wrong, watching anime has been an important part of my life for the last 10 years and I enjoy it immensely … but watching it alone is…lonely.

    • …I’ll begin by saying this… we really are from different generations, lol. I have heard of pen-and-paper RPGs before and I do know a few modern games which are inspired by the system. Obviously, I never tried the original pen-and-paper RPGs and probably never will. Not sure what those games are but my first time playing PC games was around the late 90s, my most memorable titles being Worms, Odyssey? (some side-scroller game where you play as an alien or something? Can’t even remember the name anymore) and some old 90s NBA games. When Counter Strike became so famous, I started drifting away from PC games since my super old CRT-model computer at the time just couldn’t keep up with the minimum requirements.

      Netoge is kinda weird, even now I still don’t know what to think. I thought it was just another trashy LN anime but I definitely appreciate any kinds of depth it’s going for, and it’s thematic explorations (social issues, reality and fantasy, hacking, etc…) are the kinds of themes I’m sure most gamers can definitely relate to. At the same time, it’s hard to relate to the characters “suffering”, since despite them saying they hate riajuus, those two main characters are the biggest riajuus themselves, lol. I think the main problem is that Netoge wants to explore the deeper themes, but at the same time, it also wants to retain the light-hearted mood of LNs so it ended up not being something that the premise promised it to be. Though I definitely still appreciate whenever it tries to explore some of the more serious gaming themes.

      “I may not be laughing, but at the end the episode of certain types of shows I realize I’ve been smiling for 25 minutes”
      Yeah, one reason why I’m liking simple, light slice of life shows a lot more. They may not be overly funny or anything, but if I can find myself smiling for the entirety of the episode, then it’s an excellent slice of life show.

      But well… I have been watching anime alone pretty much the entire time… :\

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