Pushing forward with the main quest and levelling up, while getting distracted by side-missions and conversations with non-player characters (NPCs) along the way. Am I talking about an RPG or real-life here? Things can get pretty hectic in both the digital and physical world, and sometimes it’s important to take time out for yourself.
Self-care is any activity done to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health. Many people confuse it with being ‘selfish’ but it’s far from it; looking after ourselves in all aspects of our lives means we have more energy and spirit to give to others. It’s about making purposeful efforts and doing so can cut back on stress and worry. Video games can be a great source of inspiration when it comes self-care activities, and here are six ideas I’ve picked up.
The Elder Scrolls Online: read a book
Reading isn’t only a good way to expand your horizons and increase your understanding, it’s also a relaxing activity that allows you to stop for a moment and take some time out for yourself. Even the most serious adventures realise how important it is to take a break from hard questing every once in a while to leaf through a few pages of an ancient tome. If you’re not a ‘book’ kind of person, why not try a visual novel instead? Grab your book or laptop, a warm drink, and curl up for an hour to get lost in a good story.
Eastshade: be creative
Eastshade has to be the loveliest game I’ve experienced so far this year, perhaps ever. Playing it may be a form of self-care in itself but it also teaches players about the simple pleasure of making something. Be it cooking, sculpting, painting like the protagonist here or anything else creative, giving yourself such an outlet can provide the space needed to take a mental break as well as producing something that makes others think, feel or smile. My own creative channel is blogging and I’m thankful for the opportunities it has provided.
Proteus: go for a walk
As my stepson told me recently after returning from a visit to the local woods with my parents: “Walking through the forest really de-stresses me.” You never know what wildlife you’re going to come across as you enter the trees, and you’re never sure which creatures you’re going to see in the procedurally-generated Proteus. Being outside in the fresh-air and surrounded by nature has a way of calming your mind; there’s something meditative about focusing on the rhythm of your footsteps and the birdsong around you.
Kind Words: write it down
When I have too much going on in my head and in beginning to feel overwhelmed, I pick up my diary and write everything down in a list. It feels as though I can breathe again afterwards and focus on what’s important. Other people keep journals, others write poems, others send letters. Although the basis of Kind Words is sending those letters on to a stranger and possibly receiving words of encouragement or advice in return, that’s not always the important aspect: sometimes just getting it out and on paper can be enough.
Night in the Woods: hang out with your friends
One of the things I liked most about Night in the Woods was its depiction of friendship. It’s not always smooth-sailing and there are bumps in the road with any relationship; but good friends will always be there for you. Sometimes forgetting about what’s happening and just being silly together for an hour or two – squirting people with water at the shopping mall, eating bad pizza at the local diner or hanging out at a mate’s house for example – can be the best medicine in the world. A close friend can help with the following activity too.
Mass Effect: talk about it
If there’s something on your mind – like a powerful mechanical race trying to take over the universe, for example – one of the best things you can do is head down into the cargo bay and share it with your crew. They’ll be a source of valuable support and advice, and show that you don’t have to go through anything alone. Talking isn’t only a great self-care activity in times of trouble. It can also help you develop your character, as well as find out more about the thoughts and feelings of those individuals who have your back.
And that list brings us to our final self-care activity suggestion: play video games. Certain titles have been developed to help players manage stress and anxiety, but even playing other games can have beneficial effects. As Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate wrote: “[Playing a game] allows me to be in control of my entire situation. If I want to explore in that direction, I can. I get to control where I go, when I accomplish tasks, how long it’ll take, and how to approach an enemy. This, for someone who feels like their life is spiralling, is a positive experience and helps me feel a little more inner peace and calm.”
What self-care lessons have you picked up from video games, and which titles do you turn to when you need some time out?
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.