A while back I read a piece about how the casual game Bejeweled can help sufferers of depression, when played in “endless mode”. The idea is that playing takes on a calming property, allowing you to feel like you’re achieving something, even if you feel incapable of doing anything. It was an interesting piece, and I would like to share my own experience with games as a form of therapy. In my case though, the game I would like to talk about is Minecraft.
Minecraft is as casual as you like, and it never ends. There is no real end-game, no timer, not even a clear objective, beyond simply building stuff and exploring the digital world created for you. Unless you play in hardcore mode, you will never see a game over screen.
In our household, we’ve used Minecraft as a mental escape on more than one occasion. When my dear wife had surgery and radiation treatment, she was physically unable to do much more than sit, and even that was a chore. Being physically weak like that also has a mental toll, and she definitely went through stages of frustration, wanting to do things that were still impossible to accomplish. So to combat this feeling of uselessness, she turned to Minecraft.
In Minecraft, an entire digital world is generated for you to explore, and all you have to do is imagine what you want to create, find a suitable location (or carve one out of the landscape) and build it!
For myself, Minecraft helped me catch a break while taking care of Kelly, who had been hit with Cancer only a few months after my mother died, also from Cancer. Playing also turned out to be a great way for Kelly and I to do something fun together, while she was unable to do much of anything at all.
Like everything else, gaming should be enjoyed in moderation, but I don’t think it deserves the bad reputation it has outside the gaming world. I still meet people who categorically dismiss games as being a waste of time – or worse, that playing somehow makes you anti-social and dumbs you down. Gaming can be a tool to feel productive and get a sense of accomplishment – a confidence booster – and a way to socialize when the normal channels are unavailable. As long as building digital castles is not all you do, and unlocking achievements is not the only thing you strive for, gaming might even be good for you.
I know it was good for Kelly and me, and it continues to be so. Our own multiplayer server has a small, thriving community of friends who share, inspire and help each other. There is no element of competition, except when we choose to introduce one. It’s all about being creative and having fun.
I love Minecraft, not just as a game, but for what it has contributed to my household. It kept us sane when times were rough, it’s a fantastic stay-at-home activity, and I’ve even learned a thing or two about constructing cool stuff. I can’t recommend it enough.
After several months of playing in privacy, we have finally started a tumblr blog, where we’ll be sharing screenshots, videos and more from the “Realm of Rasmania”. Yes, that is the name of our digital world, and no, I did not come up with it. The images and video included with this post are all from our multiplayer server.