I’m sure we’ve all seen those articles that blast some video game or another being the cause of violence, increased aggression, ill health and even death; and if you’re a kid of the 90’s you may remember the ‘moral panic’ that was attached to the Grand Theft Auto games.
However, for some (including me) games can bring a much-needed relief.
They help me find a place of focus that is otherwise lacking in my daily life, and I even use some games to engage with mindful techniques such as staying present; and as such gaming has become a key component of my mental wellness toolkit.
Gaming allows me examine scenarios, better understand social interactions, express creativity, and to develop/explore my imagination. They are also great at allowing me to de-stress.
One of the most important things to do when thinking about engaging with games for mindfulness is knowing what games help you and what games harm. For me in games, as with books, I seek peace and escape. I love games such as Animal Crossing which are not timed, paced or otherwise rule based. I have enough daily ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ that digital fishing and little chats with cute villagers are an opportunity to find calm in the chaos.
Right now, my favourite mindful game to play is Minecraft which on its own is an amazing sandbox experience, however with added mods I can craft gameplay that best suits my needs. Interestingly this was not a game I immediately connected with. I found it too blocky, I didn’t like the monsters, and I’m no good at fighting. I need things that keep my attention without overwhelming me (plus those zombie noises are a sensory nightmare!) so I avoided playing it for years, but then I started watching YouTube videos and I discovered modded Minecraft. My laptop is an older model and not at all a gaming system so I have had to learn to be very selective with the mods I play, however with a few adjustments Minecraft has become a safe place to explore and express myself creatively. One of my favourite gameplay styles in Minecraft is playing in peaceful because one of the things I love the most in Minecraft is the cooking and crafting aspect. I love to create little worlds to happily mine away and then cook pixelated roast dinner!
I don’t currently play first person shooters (FPS) mostly because I struggle with the louds sounds and it has a bit too much going on for my brain right now, but I wouldn’t rule out playing them.
This year I wanted to make a commitment to myself to be more social, however with my disabilities I knew this would not be something I could easily achieve so I began researching how to make friends and have more social interaction and one of the most popular pieces of advice was to find people who share the same interests as you. Well, I love playing games, mental health and disability advocacy and storytelling – would there be a place out there for me? Maybe a few years ago the answer would be no, but there is an amazing gaming community online full of people who care about accessibility, disability rights AND play games!!
I have ‘met’ some amazing people in the last few months and have grown not only as a gamer but as a person. I am much more confident in my interactions (yes, my shyness and anxiety occur in digital communication too) and I have even started playing a few multiplayer games. This is not something the me of last year could have ever imagined and I am having so much fun engaging with other gamers (disabled and otherwise) that I want to get more involved with the community and continue my advocacy works.
You are welcome to join me in my Mindful Gaming adventure as I explore digital worlds, share what gaming means to me and grow as an advocate for mental health and disability, as well as gaming accessibility at:
There’s no content right now as I am planning my first stream for the end of the March (my birthday!!)
Keep up-to-date with my progress on Twitter: @mindfulgamingUK
More information about accessible gaming can be found at: https://igda-gasig.org/ who recently (March 2018) had held an amazing conference in San Francisco that I was able to participate in from the comfort of my bed thanks to the amazing gaming community.
“There is a world within – a world of thought and feeling and power; of light and beauty, and although invisible, its forces are mighty.” Charles F. Haanel