Gaming with Depression

Before we get started, I’d like to put a little disclaimer here. I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL, AND DO NOT CLAIM TO BE. HOWEVER, IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR MENTAL HEALTH, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU CAN. With that out of the way, let’s just get into this.

I would describe myself as a gamer. I’ve been one almost all my life. I started when I was eight with Final Fantasy X and have continued playing games since then. I also have chronic depression. While I cannot place exactly when the depression started, I can guess it all started around the time my Pop-pop, died when I was seven. Gaming and Depression have always gone together for me. Back when I was just getting into it, my family didn’t have a game system so I just stared at the TV and watched whatever was on. Later, once I had my GBA or or Gamecube, I would play those. Fast Forward to now and I’m still basically doing the same thing.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to define what depression is. It is not just feeling sad or gloomy. It’s closer to an overwhelming weight that cannot be lifted. A feeling that nothing is ever going to be alright again and, at least in my case, a great sense of self-loathing. It is also this overwhelming feeling of apathy. I find that I cannot care about anything when depressed and that sense of apathy is what I am going to touch on today.

Currently, the games I’m really into are Splatoon 2, Overwatch, and Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. All of which are constantly being updated by their developers with new balance changes and content. The thing is, that I find it hard to care about them. Let’s start by looking at Final Fantasy. In FFXIV, I have reached the endgame. At this point, all there is to do is get better gear and prepare for each new raid and boss fight; but I don’t care. I can’t care. My friends, who I got into the game have become midcore raiders, they sport armor and weapons that outclass mine by over a dozen levels to the point where I can’t even play the same content as them and yet, I don’t care. I don’t care enough to run the easy mode raids and get my weekly loot drops. I don’t care enough to get my weekly allowance of the endgame currency and some weeks, I don’t care enough to log in at all. So why am I playing? Because it’s still fun. Even though I can’t care about it, it’s still fun to get my friends together and try to get a rare mount from an old boss while we joke on Discord. It’s fun to just hang out in that fantasy world and see people I care about. And I like seeing that they are succeeding, at least in part, because of me.

In Overwatch, I mostly play for fun. I used to care about getting loot boxes and limited time skins (still angry I don’t have dragon Symmetra), hell, I even threw an extra $100+ at the game; but now I don’t care about that. I’m in it for the fun. When I play competitive, I never go on mic and I never listen to comms. While you could argue that that’s part of why I am still in Plat, I think my performance has improved since I stopped trying to work with the team. See, when a single person tells me I’m doing something wrong, it ruins my game regardless of whether or not they were just trying to help. I spend the entire rest of the game distracted, focused on that one mistake I made on the first point of Volskaya Industries. Every time I’d play and we’d lose and my SR would drop, I felt like a failure. I felt like I couldn’t even do the one thing I got enjoyment out of. Back in around season five, I barely played at all because after being in low gold for the past four seasons, I did my placements and was placed in mid Bronze. I had no explanation and every time I started the game and saw that 850 SR rating, I closed the game and wanted to cry. I would eventually get back to gold, but damned if I know how.

Finally, I want to talk about playing Splatoon 2. I was a big fan of the original and got Splatoon 2 at the same time as my Switch. The entire game has probably brought me the most joy out of the three games I am talking about here. The bright colors and cheery music, the booyahs of my fellow inklings and octolings, it all feels good to play. I even dabble in competitive and have fun. However, Salmon Run is a different story. While I love Deluge Dirge (the music that plays in non-boss waves of Salmon Run), the choices of music grate a little. And while the addition of a second music track helps break up the monotony, I can only think of one time I even noticed the new music.  Compound that with unhelpful and uncooperative teammates who, sometimes, can’t even finish round one and it becomes frustrating. Worse, after losing my 7th shift in a row, I start to believe that it’s my fault; and again, fall into the hole of depression. What really sucks is that Salmon Run is the only way to get meal tickets and after suffering through enough games to get some prize orbs, all too often I get no meal tickets to improve the rewards I get from the 4 vs. 4 multiplayer.

The point of this essay was to share my experience and give advice. I would say that if, like me, you are a gamer with depression, find a casual MMO and try to make some friends, but don’t worry about doing the most recent content. Find friends who will do it with you when you feel up to it and don’t try to push you into stuff. For more competitive games, try not to be competitive. Play the game, not for a reward, but for fun. If talking to people stresses you out, mute them. If trying a new game mode is giving you anxiety. Hide your chat, or try it with a group of people you trust. Never be afraid to just put the game down. It’s not an admission of defeat, it’s stopping because the game that you play to have fun isn’t fun right now. Also, try to keep a good single player game around that you’re decent at. I, personally like to start up Persona 5 and grind in Mementos or do a little free running in Assassin’s Creed. Finally, as a general rule, find people you can talk to and try not to feel like you’re hurting them by talking about how you feel. It’s hard not to feel that way, but you’ll probably feel better just knowing that someone else now knows what’s going on in your head. In conclusion, games should always be fun, and when they aren’t, you’d better have a damn good reason for sticking around.