Mental Health and Gaming | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

Gaming and my mental health – Mike’s story

Gaming and my mental health – Mike’s story

Cian

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Mike Edgar, 22, a Jigsaw volunteer gives his story on gaming: I’ve been playing video games, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember.

Some of my earliest memories include me begging my siblings for a turn playing Pokémon or getting a new PlayStation 2 for Christmas and then beating my entire family at Tekken (I’m still proud of that).

Gaming background image

A lifelong passion

Gaming remained one of my most important hobbies. Pokémon has been a staple throughout my life as the different generations flew by. Console games are still my go to in my free time. As technology advanced, I was introduced to new features and exciting ways to interact with my friends online. (Mike, 22, pictured)

At college, I would go to the Students Union between classes and play whatever game was on the PlayStation with whoever was there. Gaming is the hobby I’ve put the most time and energy into by far.

Benefits of gaming

The benefits of gaming for me have been far-reaching, I’m at a stage where gaming is not just something I do to pass the time. I can use games as an ice breaker when talking to strangers, or use them as a catalyst when socialising with friends online. I can even use them to calm myself when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Mike Edgar, youth volunteer

There are countless games out there in a variety of genres that can all be used in different ways to help, depending on the situation. That said, the main driver for me playing most of these games is the enjoyment I get out of them.

I still love booting up a new adventure game and exploring new worlds; or performing some random sequence of actions and finding out that I’ve just been awarded with some obscure achievement. Then, if I have a few minutes and I’m bored, I can boot up chess on my phone and practice my skills against strangers.

In college, I started getting involved in societies through the gaming society there. They needed a new secretary and I volunteered. From there, I grew passionate about societies and even ended up founding and running my own societies in my later years of college.

Negative side of gaming

It would be hypocritical of me to pretend that gaming is only positive. As with just about anything, there are negatives too.

You can get sucked into new worlds, exploring, fighting, being a hero, doing things that would never be possible in the real world. But, it’s too easy to find yourself spending hours staring at a screen. This takes away time that can be spent with friends, or cooking, cleaning, learning or just being a responsible human being.

>> Read more about gaming and mental health

Moderation

Having reminders on my phone so that I don’t forget my other responsibilities helps me enjoy games in moderation.

I try to break up long gaming sessions so that I get some time away from screens. The most effective way for me to do this is to use natural lulls to pause and take some time away.

Impact on mood

Another negative with gaming is the impact it can have on my mood. While it can be great at releasing stress or distracting me, it’s easy for games to become frustrating. When that starts to happen, I try to recognise it and take steps to stop it.

I try to actively calm myself down, and if that doesn’t work, I just stop playing that game and pick up something else. Some may call this “rage quitting”, but if I’m not enjoying a game, there’s no point forcing myself to keep playing.

Switching off

I have a problem-solving brain. I love taking a look at a problem, working it out in my head and fixing that problem. This can really help with most games, it’s one of the main aspects that makes them fun for me.

However, if I can’t find a solution to a problem, or if I just really get into the “zone” with a game, it’s difficult for me to get out of that zone and focus on something else. I have even noticed myself still thinking about a problem in a game or what I’m going to do next when I’m trying to go to sleep. Becoming aware of this and actively trying to focus on something else makes it a lot easier to switch off and stop thinking about that game.

Gaming can be fantastic

Being a gamer has helped me make friends, taken me to events and even led to the career path I’m following now. There’s a significant portion of my friends that I met through our shared interest in games. I’ll also regularly play games with friends as a way to spend time together.

I’ve been to many gaming events where I’ve met fantastic people and shared my love of games with others. I’ve both gone to these events out of interest and been invited as a “gamer” within organisations I volunteer with.

I think that with moderation, gaming can be fantastic for someone’s mental health. It has potential knock-on effects that can help someone truly grow and develop in unexpected ways.

Read more about Raise Your Game, our 24-hour gaming marathon for youth mental health, happening on Saturday, 24 July.

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