It’s no secret that I adore all forms of adventure: hiking and camping, reading sff books, and playing video games all help me to forget the world for awhile. And with it, my anxiety. I don’t talk about my struggles with anxiety and depression much on Reader Voracious, but they’re part of my everyday existence and shape who I am as a person. The same anxiety that cripples me with fear also inspires me to work hard and take pride in my work.
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, I wanted to open up a little bit about my anxiety to maybe help others out there. I knew this was the perfect time to write about my love of video games and how they help manage my anxiety.
How I Cope with my Anxiety
I love reading and books more than I love air (okay that’s untrue hyperbole, but you get the point), but I’ve spent the last two years in and out of the worst reading slump of my life. It’s frustrating to mentally need to escape into a good book but be physically incapable of reading. I’ll often have a pile of books on my bed, and I will go through them one by one to see if any of them grab my attention and silence the noise inside my head to no avail.
If the last couple of years have taught me anything, it’s that the best way to overcome anxiety and reading slumps is to do something else. As long as I held onto the guilt and feelings of “I should be reading X or Y,” the longer my reading slumps lasted. But succumbing to the anxiousness and despair of staring into space and mindlessly watching fourteen cycles of America’s Next Top Model (sadly a true story) doesn’t do me any favors, either.
Reading and Games Offer an Escape
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, but truth be told it’s often a tough genre to get into when The Slump or Anxiety are looming over your head. I adore immersing myself in completely new realities where my problems don’t exist, but it also requires a lot of brain power to appreciate worldbuilding. Audiobooks don’t work for me in the best of times – in order to focus I have to read along with a copy of the book – but games give me the escapism I need without needing the same level of focus.
Chances are when I’m in a reading slump, I’m playing games. Whether it’s a story-based video game or idle mobile game trying to get me to spend money, I try to fill my time and empty my mind with games because I’m doing something and it’s fun so it doesn’t feel like work. As a Type A overachiever, I’m able to accomplish tasks and get that serotonin hit from an achievement unlock without feeling guilty if I miss out. In short: games help force me out of my anxiety fueled funk.
My Favorite Video Games
I have a huge adoration for Roleplaying Games (RPGs) and story-based games, and am the type of gamer who likes to snoop for all secrets and read all lore. Given my love for sff, I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Give me a game where I can adventure and I’m a happy lady.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This game is a freaking masterpiece. An amazing story (that tries to fix the bizarre timeline issue), beautiful scenery, soothing music all come together for a gaming experience which I can lose hours to.
This is the first “modern” game that I played beyond NES and SNES games, and it changed everything. Fable came out and changed everything with a game where your actions change how the world interacts with you and the ending you experience. It’s fully responsible for my XBOX loyalty for 20 years.
Assassin’s Creed II
Ezio will always hold a special place in my heart; ACII and ACII: Brotherhood both being among my favorite games to play. I fell out of love with the franchise for awhile as it got weird, but I’ve been playing Origins lately and am enjoying it thoroughly
The Curse of Monkey Island
The Monkey Island video games from LucasArts are iconic and no one can tell me otherwise. This series and the King’s Quest series are responsible for both my love of puns and point-and-click adventure games.
This game is one of the most atmospheric and fun games I’ve ever played. It’s story-based and non-linear… and you die a lot, so it’s always a different experience. It’s based in the same world as the free browser-based Fallen London, which I also recommend.
If you’d like to purchase any of these games, check the Humble Store to see if you can get it there and support charity in addition to the developers. This is my partner affiliate link for Humble Bundle, and purchases made will give me a small commission at not additional cost to you.
Free Online Games to Try
Not everyone has the means or equipment to play AAA title video games like Resident Evil or Assassin’s Creed. If you find yourself without a gaming console or computer with specifications to run games through Steam, there are still many opportunities for you to lose yourself a bit… at no cost to you!
The Oregon Trail
You have died of dysentery is one of the most iconic parts of my childhood (what a weird thing to say). I vividly remember first grade computer lab playing this game, and I love that you can play the game in all its glory online for free with this emulator. Learn about the life of a 19th century American pioneer and the move west. Can you make it all the way to Oregon?
Inspired by the old school Super Mario games, this browser-based side-scroll platform is a ton of fun (I lost three hours of my life, oops)! Use keyboard arrow keys to collect coins, stomp on enemies, and reach the end of the level within 2 minutes. The music is incredibly relaxing and I think that’s partially why I’m so addicted to the game.
Have some friends online and want to play a game of Pictionary? Skribble.io allows you to host games with friends and take your terrible artistic skills to the next level by trying to draw clues with a mouse or trackpad. Bonus for being on a voicecall while playing.
A survival horror board game that you can play solo or with other people that’s strangely addictive. It may run a little laggy depending on your computer’s specifications but it is browser-based.
An indie party game that took the world by storm last year during lockdown, Among Us is a fun game of trickery and deceit. The game is free to play on Android and Apple devices, but there is also a PC version of the game that’s usually $4.99. Through June 3, 2021 you can get Among Us for free from Epic Games.
Game Resources for Newbies
Want to dip your toes into video games without breaking the bank? Here are some of my go-tos to get you started.
- Humble Bundle offers deep discounts to video games through their store and in bundles, with the proceeds supporting charity. Sign up for their newsletter to be notified when free games are available for redemption.
- Steam and Epic Games allow you to build digital library of PC games and often have deep discounts or free games.
- Are you a fan of Settlers of Catan? Well there’s a free online version called Catan Universe and you can play online with friends.
- Join the Nerd Voraciously Discord Server for regular game nights with other book lovers!
- and of course, Plays.org!
Resources for Anxiety
Anxiety is something that we all experience at various points in our lives, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress relating to job insecurity, health risks, uncertainty, and isolation is at an all-time high. There’s no reason to be ashamed and I want you to know that it’s perfectly normal.
Here are a list of free resources which may help you manage stress and anxiety for yourself.
- The CDC has a list of stress management tips, which include unplugging from the news cycle and social media, allowing time to unwind, and trying to eat well and exercise. Hear that? “Other activities.” The CDC basically says play video games.
- The Centre for Clinical Interventions in Western Australia has a number of incredibly useful and free anxiety worksheets.
- Relaxation Skills for Anxiety and 3 Anxiety Breathing Techniques you can use anywhere.
There you have it – a look inside my life when I’m most certainly not reading and how I cope with anxiety until the reading slump passes.
Truth be told, video games have been a part of my life since I was a child when my dad and I would play Space Invaders on Atari together. Growing up alongside the technology boom and growth of the internet has me inexorably linked with Super Mario Bros and Zelda, with Neopets and snake games, with idle mobile games and indie gems that light up my life. It’s a natural way for me to escape the world for awhile from the comfort of my sofa, an active activity that doesn’t require the same kind of attention span as reading.
Let’s Chat in the Comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
💬 Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what are some strategies you use to cope with it?
💬 What are some of your favorite video games?
💬 Do you have any free online game recommendations?