I can think of no one better to write Fistful of Glitter’s first guest post than J. E. Skye. His blog, The Bipolar Writer (specifically his post about Role Playing Games), was the first thing I read on WordPress after starting this blog, and I was instantly hooked. The Bipolar Writer is one of the most eloquent discussions of mental illness I have read over the years. As the author suffers from bipolar disorder himself, there isn’t any of the patronisation or judgement that can often appear in writing about depression and anxiety.
One of the common topics discussed in J. E. Skye’s work is the relationship between depression and anxiety, and creativity. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety themselves, reading the Bipolar Writer is incredibly inspiring and has become an essential part of my creative process.
In this post, he discusses a topic very close to my own heart, how role-playing games effect sufferers of mental illness.
In my experiences over my lifetime, role-playing video games have been a way for me to combat deep depression and everything that comes from being Bipolar. What makes role-playing video games especially effective against depression is that role-playing games will take you, for a few hours, out of your own world. And for me, it is always a chance to get out my own head.
When we create characters for a role-playing game, we are creating a character that we can be proud of, when in real life we are just average people dealing with problems that are often beyond our control. Our characters usually do the right thing, unless your character is chaotic, and in the end, we can be a hero that saves the world or gets the girl. But, it goes deeper than just being a hero.
Role-playing games allow us to continue a journey of progression. When we complete quests, it makes up feel accomplished and as our characters become more powerful through experience, it can raise our emotions and put is in a better mood. To me, quests in a role-playing game can teach us to set realistic goals, compared to real life where we are constantly setting unattainable goals. When we finally reach the in-game goals it’s amazing feeling for someone with depression. When sadness, loneliness, and restlessness is their constant companion in the real world, to feel good even for a moment is an amazing feeling.
An example of an unattainable goal would be to think that you can conquer your depression all at once during the winter season when traditionally depression can reach its peaks due to a lack of sunlight. In a role-playing game, you can set goals like building the ultimate weapon in the game, and when you achieve that success it can be a mood booster. I can remember some of the so-called “impossible bosses” that I have beaten over my career as a gamer, and every victory put me in a great mood because I had to work hard to that victory. It is a lot like when I write, the feeling is similar.
Getting back to how we create characters in role-playing games, it is not unusual to make a character that is far from who we are in real life. I think that is the point really. In my own gaming experience, I have little in common physically to my created character, but it is usually a projection of what we want to be or at the very least who we imagine ourselves in our minds. We create these characters that represent what we would love to be in real life like being powerful, good-looking, or even in some cases smarter than ourselves.
When depression takes over and I get lost in my own head, it is so hard to just be “outside my body.” But with role-playing games in just a few hours into playing I have seen real changes in my mood every time I game. The things that were bothering me seem to be in the rearview mirror while I play. I can interact with other characters in the game and I can meet challenges head-on.
The role-playing games that I love the most are the ones that challenge my mind. Turn-based strategy role-playing games have long been a favourite of mine because it takes so much to play the game. The right combination of characters (healers, tanks, and magic characters) and strategy win the day.
I also want to talk about the Dark Souls series. I have beaten every game in the series, and those who have played the game know, it is the most challenging game out there in the gaming world, at least in my opinion. From the start, you play and (it seems) an endless slew of bad guys and bosses. In fact, one of the first things you fight in each game is a hard boss. It is the most frustrating and amazing gaming experience because it is a challenge from the start.
God forbid if you have 10 million souls, you die, and then die again and lose them forever is the most frustrating this in the world. But even if you lose all those souls, it is possible to get more. That is so relatable to life because depression will eventually get you, it’s the way of the world for someone who is Bipolar. But, like the game, you can always bounce back with life. Just because you lost weeks, months, or even years to your depression, life has a funny way of moving on. So why not learn that failure is inevitable both in gaming and in life.
It just happens that way but the game itself challenges every part of you. It is imperative that you strategize when you use souls to upgrade everything from armour to weapons, and increasing your health or magic. You have to be organized, and ready for anything that comes your way, because any monster can end your journey. It’s something I can take out the game into my real life. I learned that challenges can be overcome even when the deck is stacked against you. It means everything when trying to control your real-life problems.
Role-playing games are a great way to take yourself out of your mind for a time. It is also something that you can learn from just by starting a journey in a game and seeing it to completion. That is relatable to real life. The hero’s journey is something that we can all relate to, but it is good to have a journey in your own life. In role-playing games, the hero doesn’t always make the right choice but eventually, they learn from their mistakes and win the day.
Who couldn’t relate to that?
If you are interested in reading more of J. E. Skye’s work, his blog, The Bipolar Writer, can be found here.