Sometimes, despite my best efforts, my brain works against me. Over the years, I’ve learned various ways to handle the frustrating thoughts that come up due to my anxiety. Sometimes those thoughts are (unfounded) worst case scenarios. Sometimes they manifest as the unshakable feeling that everyone is mad at me; even though I know logically that isn’t the case, my brain tells me it is. Sometimes, and this is one of the worst ones, I feel like some nebulous thing is wrong.
Almost never is anything actually wrong.
I try to manage the anxiety as best I can, but it can be very dumb and very frustrating. It’s a bizarre feeling to feel sure something is wrong, but to know logically it is not.
What a thing.
Sometimes I get into what I refer to as a thought spin (or, spinning). In those cases, I learned a long time ago a little trick that helps me reset myself, if you will. I look around the room and start pointing out objects and saying, “That is a chair” or, “That is a table.” Something about that refocus works for me almost every time.
I have also found that sometimes, tasks within games provide the same reset.
Let’s take Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for instance.
Pocket Camp is a fairly shallow game in terms of requirements of the player. The relaxing and predictable tasks within the game are often soothing. I know if I go to this place, I can do these things. I know if I want to see other people’s campsites, I can go visit them. I know I can plant flowers in my garden. All those things appeal to me. During events such as the current one (Zipper’s Wonderland), I can go visit my friends’ gardens and share special items. It feels nice to engage in a positive, digitally productive way.
In larger games, there are far deeper mechanics and systems in place. Let’s take Far Cry 5 for example. If I am feeling spazzy, which, let’s face it, sometimes happens, I can boot up a game like Far Cry 5 and know there are tasks I can complete. There are all kinds of lists of things for me to do; I can do each one in turn and watch it register as complete.
This is akin to how I feel about cleaning. I love a clean, spare environment. Cleaning always feels nice, not just because a room or thing is now clean, but because there is a physical change I can tangibly see. Not every task has a visual representation that lets you know it has been completed. When the laundry is done, the bins are empty. When the kitchen is clean, the counters are as bare as possible. I like those visual representations of progress.
In Far Cry 5, even though I’m not in love with the game, I’m still thankful to be playing it. I like liberating outposts and watching the people of Hope County return to reclaim it as theirs. I like knowing I can go back to those places and see the visual representations of the efforts I’ve made that have changed the landscape for the better. Those digital positives really do add up to real life positives for me.
And co-op is another whole thing! I can be having a sour day and, if someone asks me to play games together, even if we can’t find the time to actually play together, I think that’s a lovely thing, and an honor to be sure. If time can be made to play together, it’s wonderful to share a digital space while engaging in conversation. I may not live close to most of the people I play online with but, with a few button presses, we are in the same digital space and having experiences we could never have in reality. We are often fighting side by side for good and, in times where things can feel out of control at large with everything in the news, it’s a comfort to know we can accomplish something positive, even if that something only exists within a game.
I’m so grateful to games for the experiences they provide us. I know there are folks out there who see games as horrible murder simulators, but I wish they could see the myriad positives games provide. I’ve always felt games bring us together, and I think they have far more positives than we know. Yes, they entertain, but they do so much more.