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How Gaming Both Helps – and Hurts – My Mental Health

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I love gaming. From video games to board games, I’m a huge fan, and have been as long as I can remember. I enjoy playing all sorts of games too, from the Assassin Creed series to the Rainbow Six games, and even Minecraft! Immersing myself into a new world and becoming that character is so thrilling. I’ve found gaming helps me cope with some of my inner demons and soothes my racing mind.

But with all of the positives that come with gaming, I’ve found some negatives that make me rethink this passion of mine. When I play Rainbow Six Siege, a game heavily built around playing as a team and using strategy to win the match, I’ve encountered players who talk down to the players on their team. (I’ve frequently found myself on the receiving end of this treatment.) I know I’m not a pro-player, but I’m also not a “noob,” so although I know I’m an average player, phrases such as, “You suck,” “Never play this game again,” and other more extreme phrases sink into my mind and bring up all of the horrible things I tell myself that I’ve tried to move past. I also know I can mute my team, but in order to effectively play I need to rely on my team’s callouts, so I try to muster the courage to play knowing I might encounter such toxicity.

Additionally, I know I can stop playing the game, but this game has been there for me in tough times. I’ve made friendships, I’ve calmed my anxiety and I’ve bonded with others who also love to game just because it’s fun. So knowing all of this, I always wish that instead of me having to fix it on my end, game developers would do more to foster a positive environment. Maybe there could even be servers dedicated to those who need and want a safe space to play. I think it would be so beneficial for these companies to incorporate these changes because they’d help other gamers like me know they care and are trying to do what they can in a world full of hate.

Although this may never happen, I still feel it’s important to create better environments for people with mental illnesses. We want to enjoy life and all the fun things that come with it, but sometimes we need a little more positivity. One group that’s trying to help with this cause is Anxiety Gaming. They are a nonprofit that strives to provide safe spaces for gamers. They frequently do group gaming, and there are many streamers that help promote their cause.

While I know mental health is still a touchy subject, and we need better education surrounding what struggling with your mental health entails. Groups and companies that are willing to do what they can to be inclusive for all are taking a step in the right direction. I praise those who help speak up and take a stand for the voiceless and I hope that in the future, my kids can live in a more compassionate and understanding world. Don’t let hate win.

Follow this journey on Mentally (Un)Qualified.

Getty image via chrisjohnsson

Originally published: December 2, 2017
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