Video games saved my education.
Yes, you read that right. This incredible medium that is often blamed by mainstream channels as the cause of violent acts around the world actually made a more self-confident and independent person. I honestly wouldn’t be in the strongest state of mind of my life right now if it wasn’t for playing games. All of this started back in 2014.
My first steps into my university life were an anxiety-riddled mess. I was studying creative writing and English after being pushed by my sixth form headteacher to go to university, despite being completely against the idea. I’m a naturally shy and awkward person around new people, and having to deal with a new environment was a bigger challenge than even I had anticipated.
My anxiety was at an all-time high, which fed into my depression. I was born with heart problems, and that coupled with anxiety meant that I was scared to even leave the house, so heading to university around new people meant panic attacks waiting to happen. I was spiraling. My course, due to it being so writing focused, meant that the work was constant and challenging.
Every week we had to submit multiple papers, to varying themes and in different styles. With so much work and a constant battle with my head, I got lost inside my thoughts and started failing. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort; I was just overwhelmed. There were days where I was too anxious to get to lectures. Others, I had to ask the bus driver to stop so I could get back home. I quit my job that I had at the time due to not being able to focus, and decided I simply had to get better.
Now, we all know that video games can be considered an escape from our everyday lives. Anxiety and depression ruled my life for too long but something clicked in me one day. I’m a bit of a trophy hunter and I realised that my determination to get trophies had pulled me through some incredibly tough challenges in games. An action as small and insignificant (in the grand scheme of life) as unlocking an achievement is something that brought about pride, a feeling of worth and a sense of progress.
The specific game that mainly coincided with my university life and realisation about progress was Skyrim. I had tried it previously and the sheer size of it was intimidating, so I had pushed it back. But now it seemed like the escape I sorely needed. I wanted to feel powerful and separate from myself if only for a couple hours. Suddenly the Dragonborn was who I was now, not some lonely teenager who struggled with everyday tasks.
Skyrim could have had an adverse effect on my degree. It’s potentially endless; with its colossal map and so many possibilities and secrets to be found that I could have got swallowed up in its world. To a certain degree, this did happen. The world of Skyrim is gorgeous, massive and fun. I couldn’t help but dive in for hours at a time. But rather than make me neglect my studies, I felt inspired. Felt like even though I’d play it and potentially only do one quest, or get one trophy, it was still progress.
Skyrim is one the most accomplished, fantastic and awarded open world games of all time, and it’s clear to see why. There is a tangible suspension of disbelief when you’re in that world. You can’t help but feel encapsulated and with so much good to do for the inhabitants in its many quests, you feel like everything will be okay; apart from when you’re being eaten by a dragon of course. Its wondrous environments and stories gave me something to focus on and every time I played it I achieved something. Whether I levelled up, completed a quest or earnt a trophy, I made progress. This progress, followed by purpose, had been missing in my life for a long time.
From this moment on I treated everything like a mini trophy in my head. I would mentally “reward” myself with bits of progress every time I did accomplish something. Whenever I picked up my pen or my laptop and wrote words on paper, *bwing*, trophy pop. It sounds really silly but it worked. I took the association of progress from video games and applied it to my education — and more recently, my life in general. Do a chore? Mental trophy. Make dinner? Mental trophy. Turn up for work? Mental trophy. It literally gets me through the day.
Video games taught me a lesson that was far more valuable than anything I learned at university. Sure, learning academic skills and how to improve on my craft was extremely helpful, but learning about myself was much more important to me. Video games taught me that progress is progress. Having goals, no matter how small, and then completing them was a huge motivation and boost for me. Just how I’d glance through a trophy list and plan out a platinum, I’d look at what work needed to be done and create an ordered list. Once each one was done, I’d just give myself a little “well done” to acknowledge that I had achieved something.
Over time, it helped create a much more positive outlook overall. Thinking about achieving something, instead of thinking about how much I had to do meant that I could concentrate on my work and not on my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, my anxiety didn’t disappear by any means, I still had some really awful days and I still do now. Yet, I can’t help but be proud of how far I came over the course of my three years there thanks to being brave enough to actually recognize when I had done something right. That in itself, was a trophy well earned.
There will be days where you will feel like you can’t be bothered, or just completely empty. Whether you suffer from anxiety, another illness or even nothing at all and it’s simply a bad day, it happens to us all. Try and tell yourself that the thing you’re putting off is something attainable but worthy. Tell yourself it’s something you can do and you will but you should be proud of doing it, no matter how trivial it may be.
You’ve got this.