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It’s time to talk about the psychological benefits of playing video games…

7/31/2021 10:01:00 PM

“When you’re playing a really good videogame, you don’t have time to worry about anything” mentalhealth

It’s time to talk about the psychological benefits of playing video games…

As reported on 13 February 2018:It was a bad day at work. Not for any big reason, really: I hadn’t been fired, or given a dressing down, or accidentally sent a dodgy email to the entire company. And yet… lots of tiny little issues – much like those gritty bits of sand that get into your shoes and rub – had slowly slipped in through the cracks and worn me down over the course of the day

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There was the crushing panic I felt on the tube on my way in. The heated argument I had with a colleague. The impromptu meeting which suddenly popped up in my diary, causing me to miss a deadline and work through my lunch hour in a desperate attempt to catch up. The second meeting which, despite being properly scheduled, overran by an hour and a half. The ridiculous backlog of work that built up during the 90 minutes I’d lost. The ‘can I ask you a quick favour…?’ email that pinged into my inbox some 30 minutes after I was supposed to have left the office. The ‘quick favour’ that turned out to be nothing of the sort. The ache in my eyes from staring at a screen all day. The sad little update from my FitBit, warning me that I’d failed to meet my step count. The realisation that I was already two hours late for dinner – and wasn’t going to be leaving any time soon.

The feeling that I was losing control, in a very big way.I managed to keep on top of things in the office: as an extreme perfectionist, I work hard to keep my strong, easy-going persona and I don’t like people to see me lose control. So I pasted on a smile through the stomach ache, wrapped myself in woolly layers to ease my shivering, attempted to nod my way intelligibly through any professional conversations. Nobody had any idea how hard I was working to control my breathing and slow down my thoughts, because I didn’t want them to. And it wasn’t until I finally left work for the day that I let myself succumb to the monster in my head.

A woman spotted me in the doorway of a long-since-closed Pret and asked me if I was OK. Despite the fact that I could barely breathe, despite the fact that tears were coursing silently down my face, despite the fact I felt frozen to the spot, despite the fact my heart was pounding inside my chest, and despite the fact that I just couldn’t stop shaking, I waved her off, and told her I was fine. And, eventually, I was fine – at least, fine enough to get myself to a station, find a train and make my way home.

Thankfully, I have a not-so-secret anxiety weapon hidden in my flat: my PlayStation console.I learned a long time ago that picking up a controller is the best possible thing I can do when I find myself trapped in a cycle of helplessness, fear and self-doubt. Why? Because, when you’re terrified of losing control, wandering through a virtual world and solving problems can remind you what it’s like to approach life from a positive, solvable perspective.

Dragon Age: Inquisition (DAI), in particular, is brilliant for this: you’re gifted the chance to design every aspect of your character before you begin playing, which means you can look and sound however you want. Once this important task is done,you wake up in the ashes of a recently-destroyed temple and are accused of murdering an influential religious figure. It’s up to you to prove your innocence to your captors and help them to a) settle the civil unrest in the continent of Thedas and b) close a mysterious tear in the sky called the ‘Breach’, which is unleashing dangerous demons upon the world.

I know, I know – it hardly sounds a stress-free experience. Especially as you have to engage in a lot of social interaction and forge friendships with those around you, as well as constantly filling requisitions to ensure your army has enough strength to withstand enemy attacks. And, in case that wasn’t enough, you’re expected to take a stance on religion and world order, and you have to pass judgement on your enemy prisoners (with pretty much e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e having something to say about the leniency or severity of your sentencing).

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You also have to decide who you can and can’t trust, in order to build up a team of allies, and source the materials to craft your own weapons and armour. You need to save people from house fires – sometimes choosing between two, if time is short and you can only rescue one from a fiery death. And while the mark on your hand is slowly killing you, you’re also faced with intensely difficult life-or-death situations on a near-constant basis. And you don’t just have to fight battles, you also have to attend diplomatic balls and meetings, too.

Perhaps most stressful of all is the fact that you have the option to pursue romantic relationships with other characters, if that’s what you’re into. You have to figure out if they like you, work out the best way to flirt with them, try to maintain a good working relationship and, y’know, generally navigate all of those tricky miscommunications that give us cold sweats in real life. One “do you really have to ask?” can spell the difference between a horrifyingly awkward brush-off or an entirely unexpected ‘sex on a desk’ cutaway scene –it’s always disconcerting when you’re barely paying attention to the conversation and your character suddenly, and seemingly without warning, sheds her clothes.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that you’re viewed by some as the ‘Chosen One’, aka the only person with the power to stop Corypheus, an ancient darkspawn intent on conquering Thedas and destroying the world. Forget meeting deadlines on time – now that’s pressure.

And yet…“When you’re playing a really good videogame, you don’t have time to worry about anything” Read more: Stylist Magazine »

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