‘G’ is a proud Father and fellow gaming journalist, he has agreed to share his past and present with us regarding his Mental Health management with gaming.
G, again thanks for agreeing to the interview. Could you tell me what mental illness or Illnesses you suffer from?
“Hi Reggie. I suffer with depression and anxiety, which I’ve had for most of my life. Although I’m coming out of the tunnel now and feeling a lot better about myself.”
Thanks G, It’s great to hear that you’re starting to draw a line under that part of your life. Did you discover gaming as a form of therapy before an official diagnosis?
“I’ve always enjoyed gaming, ever since I got my Commodore 64 way back in 1986 after a neighbour who’d just retired introduced me to gaming. Sadly he passed away suddenly in 1994 and I’ve no doubt he’d be amazed with how video games have evolved since. I didn’t have a loving family home, and was often neglected so I spent my time gaming as a release and a substitute for social interactions. I received a diagnosis only recently after many years of suffering.”
That’s great, I imagine he would have been blown away! G, your youth is wrought with neglect and abuse of which the shock waves can still be felt. How the hell did you manage that?
“I’m a lot tougher mentally than I’d previously thought, and even though I had thoughts of suicide on several occasions, I’ve managed to overcome that each and every time. It’s not easy, but after a course of medication I feel a lot better. Having been unemployed for several years made the situation worse, but things are look up for me now with a potential job coming my way. It’s nothing special, but it’s paying well. Ideally, I’d love to work full time as a journalist in the gaming industry and be paid to do so. Not easy but for now I do it in my spare time. I also have ideas for a video game or two, but would need to learn how to program first. So that idea is on the back burner for the time being.”
It sounds like you have a lot of positive things to come G, Where did your support network come from?
“My support network has mostly been from people I’ve become close friends with online. They’ve been a massive help for me, and I’m happy to call them friends. Even if I’ve never met them in person.”
I completely agree, just because you aren’t in the physical company of someone doesn’t mean they can’t still provide support and comfort. OK G. So we know that gaming is a massive part of your life and always will be, I believe your introduction to gaming was also an introduction to a therapy of sorts for you? please tell us more!
“Gaming is an art form as far as I’m concerned. Films and music also offer a therapy, as I find that I can relax to them also, depending on what mood I’m currently in. As for games, I’m a sucker for a deep and immersive story. So naturally, RPG’s are a huge draw for me. Especially with games such as The Witcher 3, which I spent 120 hours playing through most of the first half of 2018. There is just so much content in a game as big as that, with plenty of dialogue and cut scenes to engross myself in. There are other titles like Elder Scrolls and Fallout series which are better known among a wider audience, and lesser known titles in the RPG genre like Elex and The Technomancer I enjoy playing. It all helps me forget my problems and stops me from over thinking and analysing everything to any great extent.”
The Elder Scrolls series is my favourite series of games, I feel you brother! You’ve mentioned that you have at one time or another crumbled under the Weight of your own mental health, how did you surface from that?
“Sometimes I feel like I’m totally worthless, and it’s a rut that soon becomes a huge pit which I feel I cannot escape from. My kids keep me going even if they are incredibly difficult to handle at times.”
I’ve also found that my kids kept me from doing terrible things before I started to manage my anxiety, and yes, They can be little buggers! College was somewhat of a relief for you with finally finding friends you could trust, what kind of crazy things did you get up to whilst adapting to socialising?
“I started college in 1995 directly after leaving school. I did 2 years of Engineering after being hassled into it by overbearing parents, and never had an interest in the subject. Looking back, I’m glad I did take it, as I met a circle of friends that have played a large part in my life. I was introduced to many individuals in the rock music scene where I used to live thanks to one friend in particular, Matt, who I met on the same course. We were outcasts, with a love for heavy metal, punk and ska music and I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. Tolerance of others was a huge part in our scene, and we never judged anyone based on anything other than their own attitude and behaviour. It shaped me to who I am today.”
Wow, that is a hard quality to find amongst circles of friends. I agree that alternative unsigned music circuits has that general level of respect, its a beautiful thing! G, you have told me that you still suffer from depression and anxiety now. But gaming is still providing you the escapism you need to clear your head, what do you think needs to change G?
“Gaming is an art form. No matter what anyone will try and argue. Those who don’t accept that tend not to play them from my experience. They have no concept of the hard work and ethics that goes into any stage of the process. I’d much rather be engaged in a games story, watch it unfold, and see how characters develop throughout the journey. Sometimes, it’s just as much fun to play a game that doesn’t require to much thought and play for fun. There is so many different genres that it’s possible to find something for everyone’s taste. Then there’s the hand/eye coordination increase that gamers will find improves from playing games. It keeps the mind active, unlike watching TV where you’d just sit and stare at the TV for extended periods. Another good media to invest time into is reading a book. There’s a multitude of authors that are worthwhile investing your money into their novels, so whatever you enjoy, do it and don’t pay attention to the haters and their negativity.”
I find myself leaning towards games tailored to a single player audience, although a cheeky bit of DooM and Halo are always good! Finally, a double barreled question! How do you feel about ‘Gaming Disorder’ and what would you do differently in regards to managing mental health in gamers?
“Gaming disorder is a bit silly in my opinion. If people who play games for an extended period of time have a disorder, then people who watch TV, or read a book, or even listen to music for lengthy periods should be classed as having a disorder. In my eyes, it’s no different. You’re still performing said action for long periods, just with a different media. We can then go to look at young children and that popular game, Fortnite. So many stories about parents getting on their soapboxes, complaining that their kids are addicted. The onus lies with the parents here. Don’t just leave your child to play it for hours on end. That’s ridiculous. All they’re doing is trying to pass the buck to the video game industry and the developers as a whole, shifting the blame to them for their lack of parenting. Forcing them to go on the defensive and cover what they’re not doing in the first place. It irks me no end, as video games shouldn’t be labelled as a problem.
If a game influences people to commit a heinous crime for example, that’s down to the person who is influenced. That suggests to me, that there is a mental health issue present that’s been left undiagnosed and anyone with a modicum of common sense would help their friend or family member get help. Yes there are violent video games with disturbing imagery, and they have PEGI ratings for a reason, so if your child is say, 13 years old, don’t let them play a game that’s been rated 16+, as that just tells me that you don’t genuinely care what they are looking at. I’ve played some of the most violent video games over the years, like Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto and the like, and I’ve never gone out and hijacked someone’s car, or punched someone’s head off because of playing Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat. Being able to differentiate between fantasy and reality is what is important here. Knowing the right from wrong action is vital. If you allow your child to play video games, set an amount of time that they can play them. Spend time with them as well, whether that be a family night together, a day trip out or outdoor activities that everyone can enjoy. You could even join them in a game and play together. It’s all about spending quality time with each other to form a tight family unit.
I’ve introduced my 3 year old son and 5 year old daughter to Minecraft in recent months, and they adore the game. We have a great time together, and while they love playing it, I don’t allow them to play for long periods and set aside a few hours each week at most. I want them to learn as they grow, so Minecraft has become a reward for good behaviour. My daughter has shown an interest in other games I own, and most are unsuitable due to content, leaving only a few she can play. But some are going to be above her mental capacity with complex controls for such a young age and small hands that require a higher level of dexterity.
In closing, video games aren’t a terrible form of media. It’s down to how you approach them. There are some wonderful stories that are told, as I mentioned with The Witcher 3. It’s for adults only, due to the nature of content with regards to mythical creatures, blood, violence and language. But if it was a film, most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Nor should kids be allowed to play games until the early hours and then have parents blaming developers. If you are concerned about your child’s playtime, do something about it and don’t blame others for what you don’t do. Take responsibility and don’t shift the blame elsewhere. I for one will have more respect for you.”
G, I think you have summed up the purpose of why Reggie Reviews is trying to fight the good fight with positive representation of gaming in the general media. Thank you so much again for telling us your story behind the person you are today!
And that brings today edition of ‘Mental Health in Gaming’ to a close. Every time I speak to a gamer who has battled with Mental Illness, I am always in awe of their strength, tenacity, whit and awareness of the negative stigma that surround their most awesome passtime.
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