Before gaming came into my life, I led a stressful existence. And my anxiety exacerbated tenfold when I left my family’s church. A choice which was largely mediated through all of my ‘secular’ readings on our house’s cable connection. As well as the lengthy discussions on the ‘usefulness of faith’ that I had with people who quoted from the Bible at the drop of a hat.
Losing My Religion – and Taking On More Than I Could Chew
Somehow, the belief in the presence of a god by my side had always provided a steely sense of comfort. I knew then that even if I hit rock-bottom in my personal life, I’d still never succumb to depression. But the recent (2005 onwards) bout of Catholic sex-abuse scandals greatly changed my opinion regarding institutional religion. And when my town pastor couldn’t come up with a reasonable defense against my concerns, I decided to chuck the whole thing altogether.
I still remember penning a ‘faith-leaving’ post on my Facebook wall at the time. Many of my devout atheist friends, of course, were greatly enthused by the decision. They even threw me a ‘divorce party’ to celebrate the occasion!
At the time, I had no indication of what I was really in for, though. Or how gaming, an unlikely savior for a serious-minded adult, would factor in my ‘personal salvation’ equation.
Diagnosed with Depression (and Given a Strange Prescription for Treatment)
It wasn’t long before a gut-wrenching kind of despair started to creep slowly into my mind. Like a thief walking in stealthily through the back door, it gradually lodged itself into my heart. And I wasn’t just imagining my predicament. All of my everyday acquaintances (from friends, family and work colleagues) commented on my ‘changed’ nature. They complained that I seemed to be ‘enjoying life without really enjoying it!’ no matter how paradoxical the assertion sounded!
At first, I dismissed all of these remarks. I was free for the first time without the shackles of any metaphysical power restricting my moves. Without scripture telling me what to do, and whatnot. But my heart chose to spell things differently. It wasn’t happy with the way things had turned out. And when faced with any instance of stress, it started to beat uncontrollably. My mind reacted with raised adrenaline and cortisol levels and forced me to see a GP.
The good doctor, out of concern for my condition, recommended a psychiatrist.
As far as treatment was concerned, I was given the usual round of antidepressants to handle my condition. In addition, I was given a strange prescription: to take a few days off from work and play any adventure video game that I fancied.
How a Few Adventure Game Titles Eventually Saved Me
Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to this advice. How could I, with the skeptical state of mind that I had? And which dismissed anything from a consideration that seemed even remotely nonsensical!
But one day, while I lay in a semiconscious state on my living room bed (under the influence of a strong Xanax tablet), I decided to give the suggestion a try. I wasn’t able to sleep anyway, so what did I have to lose (I imagined)?
Luckily, I live in a corner of Manhattan where Amazon delivers its products within two hours. And so, after casually flicking through some of the popular gaming titles available on the site, I placed my order. The games included the new Spider-Man, God of War and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey titles; all of them configured for PS4 playback.
My PlayStation console had been lying neglected for many months now, and if anything, I knew that it would really enjoy going for a spin!
A Cathartic Experience
As I played one game after another, I felt my mind lightening up. I became distracted from all the dark, depressing and horrible thoughts that had plagued me for some time now. The pharmaceuticals, so far, had only succeeded in putting a lid on them.
But they still slithered like serpents underneath the veil, ready to lash out whenever my drug-induced drowsiness subsided.
The games helped to gradually extract me from my neuroses. They immersed me into a world of fantasy where I was the boss. Where the story developed grippingly and caused me to lie with bated breath regarding what awaited me next. What puzzle would I be required to solve, or what decision to take to advance onto the next level.
True to their genre, these adventure games were anything but boring. And by the time I finished playing God of War, I knew as much about Norse and Greek mythology as I did about finance and marketing (my dual professional orientations).
All modern gaming consoles come with their affiliated online game stores. Through these platforms, you can easily download your favorite titles within minutes. Provided, of course, that you have a fast internet connection. And so for this reason, I upgraded to an Xfinity Triple Play subscription. Today, after 6 years of battling with debilitating depression and its grueling treatment journey, I can honestly say that I am in a better place. Psychologically speaking. And the thrill ushered in by gaming has had a major part to play in this story of recovery. In retrospect, I wouldn’t say that I have found my faith again. Only a new messiah…