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Finding relief through role-playing games

To preface this article, everything is taken from my own experience as a way to relax and it should no way be viewed as any form of health advice. If your mental or physical health is suffering, please seek help from a professional.  

Work, commitments and countless other inconveniences are always present in our lives. Many people struggle against the tide and we do what we can to cope.

Videogames, in particular role-playing games (RPGs), “can be a much needed respite” (Gammon, 2018) from the daily grind.

For instance, Narrative Therapists have been “using videogames as a therapeutic tool” (Franco, 2016) to help their clients get back on track and RPGs allow players to “participate in stories that they author within the constraints of the game environment” (Franco, 2016), unlike the unpredictability of real life. 

My speculation on the secret ingredient to immersion in RPGs as opposed to other genres, is it is possible for the player to be completely embedded in the game’s world “thus allowing them to temporarily escape from negative mood states experienced in their offline lives” (Blasi, Giardina, Giordano, & Lo Coco, 2019, p. 30) through the characters, story, locations, quests, gameplay systems and time investment. 

Take for example Final Fantasy VII – the story, the characters, the world and the gameplay: everything is designed to keep you entrenched – from the colourful cast of characters you meet, to the multitude of interesting locations you can explore, to the constant levelling up of your party to overcome obstacles, to the multitude of side quests you can participate in. It is a vibrant world, populated by a vast array of interesting characters and places to visit. 

Each character has unique personalities and traits, so the player can easily place themselves in the shoes of one or more characters, making the player feel much more a part of the world

Being too entrenched in a virtual world however can have negative consequences – “becoming too dependent on these tools can lead to us neglecting important problems, in turn making them worse” (Gammon, 2018).

That was my short take on why RPGs (and videogames in general) get me through some tough times. They definitely help as a break from real life, but don’t rely on them to take your problems away, because those problems will still be there when you come back to the real world. Let me know which games help you out too.

Blasi, M.D. & Giardina, A. & Giordano, C. & Lo Coco, G. Problematic video game use as an emotional coping strategy: Evidence from a sample of MMORPG gamers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 8(1), 25-34.

Franco, G.E. (2016, October 25th). Videogames as a Therapeutic Tool in the Context of Narrative Therapy. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01657/full

Gammon, R. (2018, January 11th). How Using Video Games As Escapism Helped (And Damaged) My Mental Health. https://www.gamespew.com/2018/01/escapism-my-mental-health-gaming-experiences/

One Comment

  1. Howard Van Der Wal

    Thank you so much for publishing my article guys! The article artwork is really cool as well! I’d be interested to know what other genres help people relax and forget about the current worldwide crisis?

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