Essays, Games

Indigo Panics: Anxiety in Gaming

Dear video games,

We have long had a strange and tenuous relationship. I have very often been busy with life. Building one’s own business is a long and difficult task. I had been trying to find time to myself, but when I had that time, I usually found I needed to sleep. It seems strange, I know. Because sleep is my mortal enemy, and every day, I walk into its arms almost (almost) willingly.

Alas, I had desperately tried to make time for us, but it is unthinkable, undoable. But now, we can be reunited again, my darling.

I have found a reason for me,
to change how I used to be.
A reason for the things we do.
And the reason is you, crippling anxiety.

Sincerely,
Indigo

The above letter is very real (minus the Hoobastank). It is a letter that I could write to the whole world of virtual games. I have, in fact, not really made time for video games recently. I’ve been working on building myself as a business in the world of theatre. I have been falling in love and moving twice. I have been helping friends, having a social life, and enjoying one too many drinks. Within that life, I managed to forget how I care for myself.

In a world where adults have bills to pay and find friends to socialize with, it’s hard to find a way to relax. On top of these completely normal traits, I have an A minus personality. What that means is that I’m anxiety-driven. I have high-functioning depression, and I rarely sit down. I can’t even sit in my car without an audiobook. In my world, video games are hard to make time for, because they don’t advance me in a “productive” way. I sit for about an hour, and then I get nothing in the physical world.

I’ve lived a good portion of my life judging some gamers. I get worried for friends who spend too much time with a system and not enough with humans or careers. It’s hard for me to accept that staying in experiencing a screen is better for some people than going out and experiencing life. It took my dating a gamer to really understand the benefits of playing video games. Of course, I’ve been playing video games on and off my whole life. But it had this begrudging sort of aspect to it. I was never happy with myself when I turned on a system. I always viewed my playing games as a silly reward for getting “real things” done.

Last week, I remembered the good. I tried for 100% in Yoshi’s Wooly World (a game kindly given to me by my boyfriend). I have not gotten 100% (yet), but I have made it through many difficult levels, gaining all the sunflowers and yarn balls. And one day, as I sat unemployed and feeling like a real jerk, I realized why gamers play games. In a world of high stakes and high stress, video games offer relief. They affirm how great you are with very little risk to you. Video games can be a perfect type of self-care. I realize that what I get emotionally is worth the hour. When I can’t advance my career or I’m just waiting for life to catch up with me, video games are the self-care I need to look for. The stakes in video games are low. If I die, I can just restart. If I succeed, I get a complete overhaul of endorphins and other mood-boosting results.

Certain video games can get me worked up. I can harness this energy and put it to work. If I’m playing any type of RPG, I get frustrated easily when I die. The investment in characters raises the stakes. I can take that frustration and use it to work on a new piece of writing. I have a very hard time with first-person perspective. I become overly invested in the game. These are the type I rarely play. But when I do, I can use the anxiety and emotions like a cathartic system. I can relieve stress by feeling emotions again. Games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World are ideal when my mood is bad, and all I need is to relax. The characters look nothing like me, the deaths are short, and usually, I respawn very close to where I was quickly.

Video games may look like just another recreational part of life. They sometimes come with bad parts, like Gamergate. But they can be important too. Video games can be the reason someone is putting off suicide. Video games can be the reason someone needs to release tears. Video games are truly what you put into them. Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

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