Video Games for Wellbeing! #CHECKPOINTSERIES at PAX West! ft Ken Levine, Rae Johnston and YOU

Video Games for Wellbeing! #CHECKPOINTSERIES at PAX West! ft Ken Levine, Rae Johnston and YOU

During this series we’ve gone on a lot
about how to represent different mental
health issues in games and the fact that
games can be good for your wellbeing
but we’ve never actually discussed which
games is it that can have that positive
Welcome to the #CheckPointSeries where
we tackle mental health issues using the
power of video games
what we found in our research is that
people with different vulnerabilities
are drawn to different types of video
games for example someone with
generalized anxiety I want to play an
intense puzzle game taking up all their
mental power so that their brain stops
turning over those worried thoughts
Someone with depression might want to
immerse in an RPG becoming engaged in a
world different from their own, giving
them the strength to return to life
having had a break from it for a bit. And
those who struggle with social anxiety
often find the MMOs help them to
navigate the complexities of socialising
allowing them to feel part of a
community. Some of the games we hear
spoken about most often are Mass Effect
and Dragon Age, Minecraft, Dark Souls and
Demon’s Souls, and Stardew Valley. But
what do you think? We came to PAX West
to find out
I think one game that comes to mind
immediately is Thomas Was Alone and
Inside. These more quiet like somber
style games and has kind of a like a
mellow quality to it. Then there’s other
side of the spectrum which is like the
super over-the-top violent stuff you
know explosions and more that like I
guess; primitive release type thing.
I always loved playing destiny and I just
like getting into that world
features that they have and playing in
the crucible fighting against other
people and also like the teamwork that
because, Destiny for the most part
is a community game so you play with
other people, you make friends, you play
with your friends, and it’s just overall
really good time.
Games that have like
a lot of kind of ritual to them games
alike especially life simulator things
so things like your your Slime Rancher
Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, that kind of
I just find it sort of enormously
cathartic, like there’s something to be
said for actually games and all that
stuff as well but like if I’m feeling
bad I think the kinds of stuff that I’m
gonna gravitate to it’s gonna be bright
colorful, structured, in a way that sort
of provides the validation loop I think.
Anything is from like my childhood if I
go back and say like you know like i’m
kind of feeling crappy today you know
what let’s play Spyro, that’s something
that made me happy as a kid. It’s great
it’s colourful, just, I don’t know
something that’s like
let’s reach into that nostalgia pit and
bring kind of happy memories back that way
I particularly play with my friends and it’s an
opportunity to meet new people to be a
part of something that everyone enjoys
that’s let me play it.
Same here I play Final Fantasy 14 with her and I play a
lot of turn-based RPGs because it helps
me like get my mind on something else
and strategize that way. The stories and
stuff are just like the worlds that they
build are really good and it’s really
engrossing so you start getting focused
on that as opposed to like anything that
was holding you down that day
Games are set to occupy the same
space in your mind that often gets
unhealthily fixated and focused on
things when you’re dealing with mental
health issues. I’ve always valued them as
as a friend to turn to when times get tough
it’s not a replacement for, you know, people
but it can be it can be a very nice
place to go to when times are tough
The thing that’s nice about video games is
that video games allow you and give you
the opportunity to control a situation
that’s how they are designed there are
certain things that you can affect on
certain things you cannot and it’s very
structured and it’s just unchanging
I sort of realized this that like as it
was like playing certain games
obsessively such as the original
Rollercoaster Tycoon
here is the place that I could exert
control over something even if I
couldn’t necessarily exert that same
control over aspects of my own life. Yeah
I went into a really long Rollercoaster
Tycoon playing stint during a period of
unemployment in my 20s where I was sort
of a floundering a little bit, you know,
here was something that was like, “Well
I’m having a little trouble finding a job,
but look at this awesome roller coaster
park I made this, is amazing!” That was a
large part of it for me and I imagine
whether they realize it or not a large
part of it for a lot of people who play
games, you know, people talk about it as
like you know escapist entertainment
when you say escapist no yes you’re sort
of escaping your life and you’re going
into a place where things have
rules, things make sense, things that
you can exert control over. So I play a lot of games where you know
you’re building stuff or managing
My go to when I get asked
this question is is Mass Effect, which
will come as not a surprise to a lot of
people. A lot of the times my depression
and by extension my anxiety are informed
and a result of my sense of self; when
you get to play as someone like
Commander Shepard and make them you know
the paragon of humanity and you know
this shining beacon of goodness and what’s right, you know,
you kind of draw from that and you feel like
because you are the one making those
choices and, you know, that’s what *I* would
do in that situation. Then I always have
this thing where, you know, like I used
Mass Effect to kind of learn the impact
of the way you talk to people and that
it has on the people who are in the
world around you and even in the worst
of times that you know if someone can be
this incredible shining light and the
stoic figure that goes, “Well, no, you know,
we’ve got to do the right thing,” then why
can’t I do that? And why can’t I be that strong?
I like South Park
Through my relationship with my wife we’ve been
able to really enjoy ourselves you
know playing Mario games or Gears of War
and my wife’s really big on
Borderlands, we played an obscene amount
of Borderlands and I mean that that’s
been been really great for me, you know,
both to connect with her, and also you
know to have a really great time playing
with people and with friends and you
know with friends in different countries
it’s one of the few ways that we can
stay in contacts and you know actually
hear each other playing with this group
of people that always makes me laugh
always makes me smile, it’s really really
good for me and to have people to talk
to that, you know, aren’t just my wife
Like you know people outside of
everything. I can always know that
if I go, “Hey can we talk?” they will listen
to me because we’ve built that
friendship. Actually a friend of mine has
I guess returned the favor I’ve been
speaking with him lately about some
pretty intense stuff that he’s been
going through. It’s nice knowing that I
can be there for someone in the way that
people were there for me.
I also play a lot of games that
allow me to sort of enter a more like
zen-like flow state that is a common
with a lot of games my favorite of those
probably being Rez which I think I own
copy of almost every
single version that’s come out over the
years and it’s something that I’m very
glad has lived on through the 15 years
since its initial release. What’s nice
about Rez, apart from the fact that it’s
just a phenomenal game, it’s very
relaxing in a lot of ways I mean yes you
can technically lose, but the combination
of the the audio and the music with the
visuals sort of like helps to bring
you into this world a little bit. It’s a
it’s a fairly non violent game what’s also
nice about it is that you can play the
whole thing start to finish in just
under an hour and for me it was perfect
if I had a hard day at work I would come
home I would do stuff I would fire it up
I would play for an hour and it just
sort of gave me that moment is sort of
like recenter myself maybe after a
particularly tough day
I don’t tend to play stuff like the things
I’m working on like it tends to be
different genres like more like fun pick
up and play action and silly, like,
Splatoon 2 that kind of thing. But
they’re games where it’s kind
of like, okay, here you don’t have to
be hyper focused on this thing and I
like that too I like putting on a
podcast and playing some Splatoon 2
and just are wandering around in Breath of the Wild. I like that too I know I
haven’t beaten anything in it I just
like climbing and that does seem to
sort of tie in with therapy like just
the idea of doing an activity that’s
like a pleasant way to pass the time but
isn’t getting you aggravated or
something like that.
Spelunky is my absolute favorite when I’m
having a panic attack like because you
just you have to be focused on so many
that like you’re distracted from it
you’re not sitting there thinking
“I’m gonna die I’m gonna die” you’re
sitting there thinking “oh my god I’m
gonna die!” like you know you know it’s
it’s really cool how easy it is to lose
yourself in a video game where you have
to like focus on a lot of things all at
once over the last few years I’ve used
Binding of Isaac so I just play it and I
just kind of forget everything and it’s
really great and you just you know you
go through a run
and yeah it’s really nice
Yeah, Binding of Isaac: I play at least a run every
single day of Binding of Isaac, yeah, I
love that game.
It’s just there is a
lot going on and there are a lot of
things that happen in that game that you
don’t need to really think about too
hard but it’s just enough that it keeps
you like focused on all right what’s the
next room gonna be what’s the next room
gonna be all right I got a dodge of this
stuff all right I got a key I can open
this door I shouldn’t like it just very
small decisions that yeah they just keep
you on your feet and I like that
So for me I need something that stops me
overthinking things, that stops me
getting in those horrible cyclical
thought patterns. I need humor
and I need ridiculous humor. I need
nothing with depth, I don’t need a
cathartic cry, I don’t need to feel
overwhelming emotion for the characters
on the screen, even though I will
invariably. South Park Stick of Truth actually came out at a really good
time for me. My depression was
particularly bad at that point and I
just sat down and just started playing
this game and it just it was complete
Wwhen you hear
escapism but you think it has a negative
kind of connotation like you’re running
away from your everyday responsibilities
I wasn’t running away from anything but
I was trying to break away from those
thoughts that were damaging to me
and this game did it so good, it was just
ridiculous and hilarious and rewarding
and well made; it was the first well-made
South Park game ever basically. I think
because it was an RPG as well and I
really liked role-playing games I just
liked being able to explore worlds and
you know, play as a character that I’ve
made myself and all that sort of thing
it’s a it was a really good experience
for me and
I recommend it.
Yeah I went quite often
there is a game I associate with a
period of time you know there was a
death in my family at one point and
there was a game and it the game didn’t
like deal with any of these issues it
was a completely orthogonal Heroes of
Might and Magic to his game came out in
the nineties and I tend to like strategy
games so they tend to occupy that
obsessive part of my brain that thinks
about things intensely and quite often
the things that’s thinking about there
are no clear solutions to but when you
played a strategy game like yours it
might matter – it was quite whimsical to
start with and was just a fun greatly
designed game but it didn’t deal with
any issues it didn’t relate to any
issues in my life and their problems
were about like you know hey taking over
that castle and you know what how many
orcs should I hire this month you know
and and that was a really nice thing for
me because I became quite focused on
that game it’s a game that let me solve
problems. We’re wired to accomplish you
know and sometimes the light doesn’t
give us those opportunities and games
can do that and it’s important to not
mistake that you know for actual things
that move your life forward in ways
towards a healthier experience but man
sometimes it really is it really helps
when you need it
and what about you? What games have moved you,
helped you, supported you? Brought you
closer to other people? We want to hear
from you, please come along to the CheckPoint
forums or contact us on social
media. Remember you can listen to the
full interviews with all of our guests
by searching the CheckPoint podcast
into your favorite podcasting service
and please come join up for a CheckPoint
membership, you can get merchandise,
giveaways, convention meetups and heaps
more so remember stay safe and I’ll see
you next time

19 thoughts on “Video Games for Wellbeing! #CHECKPOINTSERIES at PAX West! ft Ken Levine, Rae Johnston and YOU”

  1. What games have you played for positive mental health and wellbeing?! We want to hear from you, and will feature your submissions on the CheckPoint website!

  2. I play an old monolith 2 d platformer called Claw. Takes me back to when i was a kid only im much much better at it. Plus its a beautiful game. Play some old ps2 games too like the Smackdown games and burnout.

  3. When I had my psychosis, I used to play rts on easy mode to keep myself under control as 4x and management games where too much a strain on my concentration for me to play while rts on easy where just enough for me to just build a base and steamroll the enemy.

    Now, I mostly play Souls games when I have a bad day as losing is part of the progress route so I don't mind at all. Otherwise, I do enjoy well written single player games like Mass Effect (even Andromeda) and Deus Ex or games like Brother: A tale of two sons and Thomas was alone. Heck, even games like FTL, Sunless sea or Stellaris are enough for my mind to create a story that I care for. Even better if they have a good french translation.

    And when I have an "attack" from my alter that want me dead and I have to put him back in place, the others alters seems to enjoy rogue-like games like Sword of the Stars: The Pit and if things go rather downhill, they switch to puzzles games like Antichamber, Stealth Inc. or the Talos Principle.

    Video games helped me maintain my sanity through out my life when I was scared to talk about it because of prejudices. Then came my psychosis and it struck me garder because I was scared to talk what was happening in my mind. Even though my friends knew something was wrong and they tried to help me, they wheren't able to achieve their goal because they just didn't knew how. I had a pretty good control on my syndrom so I knew pretty much what to do to help me and video games where to way to go.

    Fortunately, I was able to send a cry for help before it was too late and now I make it a duty to speak about my struggle when possible, but video games are still a way to control myself when thing go south or a way to express myself. I sometime use them to explain how such a thing as illogical as I have is both real and can influence myself to other as video games, being fantasy, create a bridge that people are more able to cross and a lot of video games don't describe mental illed persons as mass killer in the waiting.

    It's even better when video games put the player in the shoes of the person that have said illness as it allow them to understand the struggle and how action that seems futile in your weaken state can have a huge impact on the person and maybe can try to help people integrate their illness in their life.

  4. Euro Truck Simulator 2. No seriously, hear me out…
    Coming home from work, throwing on my computer and driving a virtual truck around the European country side is extremely relaxing and blissful for me.

  5. Dark Souls helped me in the tail end of a bad time in my life, (depression) and it helped me remember what it felt like to succeed in something i guess.

    teared up knowing it's getting recognition. you guys are doing amazing work thank you so much!

  6. For me the game that brings me at ease is Tekken, playing a character that either resonates with you or has a beautiful moveset makes me feel at ease. I, for example, play Nina and her moveset is fun to look at. And with the feeling of how strong every hit connects, or how some moves look and feel like they hit harder: i.e. Launchers, Screw moves and Finishers I feel like it's also a bit cathartic. Not to mention when you hit a combo the game validates you by saying how many hits it were and how much damage it was and that you even did a combo to begin with already makes me feel better.

  7. Stardew Valley is my go to game when I’m feeling really depressed, glad other people recommend it as well! Either that or super mario sunshine

  8. For me, 'tis always about the ones which induce that flow, particularly arcade-style blasters… and those specifically by UK studio Llamasoft.

    And it was one of their forays into mobile (in an era where mobile was shifting heavily)… an iOS title no longer around known as "Minotaur Rescue". It was a fairly simple blaster, but when it came out… I was working at a job which was crushing me heavily with a combination of tight deadlines and giant scopes.

    I'd get home at the end of the work day, and feeling really isolated from my friends, I'd just dig out my iPad, sit on my bed, and play that though. I feel like it was a combination of being able to get into the flow, and the fact that it didn't require a massive amount of tactical though… just reacting to the chaos unfolding on screen.

    More recently though, experiences like POLYBIUS (on PS4, particularly when in PSVR mode) fill this gap nicely… one gets into the flow, and I find the need to react to the action, and focusing on surviving and racking up points manages to drown out my conscious thoughts for when I'm having a real bad day.

  9. A TL:DR list of games I turn to: World of Warcraft, Deus Ex (human revolution), Binding of Isaac, Diablo 3 and [Insert game with a good stealth/sneak mechanic].

    I guess RPGs are my biggest remedies against my social anxiety and depression. I just get to forget myself when I play them. Sadly I tend to binge-play good RPGs, so they're over too soon – I guess because my brain gobbles up the good feelings they bring, like a crack addict.

    An MMO like World of Warcraft is a blessing/curse that way, since you can never really run out of things to do. I've also noticed that my brain's reward system fires up a lot, when I complete harder achievements in games, so my perception of myself as a "good gamer" is upheld. Watching Twitch streamers is a bit of a downer in that regard, because many of them are the best there is at the games that I like to watch, so I go "Oh… You're at least 1-2 (skill) levels above me!", where it was much easier to keep up the ignorance of my "überness" before!

    I had my best social experiences in Vanilla WoW, when I was new to the MMO genre and got into a raiding guild. I've still got loose connections with many of those people but it does become less and less over time, since our lives differ more and more as we grow older and we're spread all over Europe. Well, the main problem probably is that my life differs from theirs, being a gaming recluse.

  10. Man. I would absolutely LOVE a full episode from you guys just covering video games with CHARACTER CREATION in them. I love character creators so much I even made a Steam Curator page that specifically only spotlights video games that let you create your own characters. Hell I would even share my thoughts in that episode about how much I feel Character Creation in video games could help people. It's just amazing that we live in a world where there are video games where you can essentially include YOURSELF into a video game to beat the monsters and save the day and receive the love and praise you've always wanted!

    Love these videos and I'm always looking forward to the next one and the next one and hopefully you guys come down to MegaCon in Orlando this year too. idk if I'll be there but it would still be cool to have more of these kinds of episodes where you feature regular people out and about to have their voices heard as well!

  11. I do have some problems socializing when it's not in a setting related to my hobbies (boardgames and tabletop RPGs), but multiplayer games, ironically maybe, just make it worse. I did play WoW for a bit, waaaaay back, but never really got very far, since I essentially treated it like a single-player game, unless real-life friends of mine were online at the same time.

    Not sure if I'd describe them all as "intense puzzle games", but I find that I do enjoy playing games like FTL, Into the Breach, Dungeon of the Endless, Invisible Inc.Thea: the Awakening, the various Civilization games, and so on quite alot. Oh, also one I keep returning to, thought mostly for the daily challenge now that I've mostly done everything, is one called Desktop Dungeons.

    The turn-based nature of most of these also help both in terms of not needing to rush things, and it's handy if I need to focus on something else for a little bit (like, I watch alot on Twitch nowadays while home, used to be youtube).

  12. For me, ESO kept me from being impulsive (manic). There is so much questing that I wouldn't engage in harmful behaviour.

    If I needed something more quiet Slime Rancher is my go to these days.

    Testing my focus/attention I love Zelda. It helps me feel accomplished and mastery.

  13. I bought Persona 4 Golden on a whim right after my sister passed away. I have a sort of bond with the characters in that game because, in lieu of actual human friends (social anxiety and all that), the characters in Persona 4 sort of acted as a group of people I sort of leaned on during that time to take my mind off my troubles. I don't mean in a sort of delusional way, where I was convinced these characters were my "friends" or anything like that. I just mean that those characters and their stories were something I could look to as an escape, and it was so well written and well acted that I got very immersed in these characters and their stories. It was kind of a matter of perfect timing that I found that game when I did.

  14. Always Witcher 3 and Lost Legacy. Horizon Zero Dawn and the old Sierra point and clicks. Gabriel Knight, bless you. 🙂

  15. An older game I love, Breath of Fire 3, is one of those games that really got to me as a kid who didn't really know who he was or wanted to be. It was one of the first games I played that I felt like I had imprinted onto the character. It's pretty much a tale of a boy trying to find out who he is, what his place is in the world. And the friends he makes on the way and the tales they have.
    Seriously, hands down, my favorite game.

  16. Awesome episode! It is so cool to see ppl going through life with the current gen's games 🙂
    I for one experienced depression for more than 10 years and never was open about it or talked with anyone directly… so… many times games were the only way I could find help over the years.

    I now realize I had quite the depression under my belt, which I did not acknowledge back then, and can now see how many of my loved games helped me. Games like:
    *Serious Sam, Clive Barker's Undying and AudioSurf on rock/high-paced electronic music… when I needed some adrenaline in order to un-stress, to let the anger out somehow, instead of hitting wooden poles :))
    *Calming games like… Pharaoh, Broken Sword series, Transport Tycoon Deluxe
    *Scrapland, The Bard's Tale, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, DeathSpank… when I just needed a laugh
    *and when I wanted needed to escape… I had GUN, Freelancer, Fallout 1&2, Icewind Dale, KOTOR etc

    The only regret with gaming I guess it was my WoW years… 10 of them and, I do not regret playing the game or the time in it… but that I gave to much to it, neglecting the abysmal real life, which led to to a few nasty consequences.
    So I guess, the lesson is… game responsibly :))… Whenever facing this alone i feel a lot of wisdom is needed. I was lucky I had a good dose of it and got out ok, but not without marks.

    Currently, I find that the family life assembled me back in a more stable person, but whenever needed, I still find myself going back to gaming with ETS2, Elite Dangerous, D3… but also found a new passion in Youtube videos where I go back to my old loved games or to deep indie games (e.g. That Dragon Cancer, Thomas was Alone, Little Inferno, Black The Fall)

    A good topic for a future video… maybe see how creating Youtube Videos can help a person, as I find that this helps a lot with self-image, socializing and breaking your shell… and I see quite a number of small gamers/youtubers facing some kind of mental issues and finding that this youtube process helps them a lot.
    PS. Maybe also look into Little Inferno game, a wonderful calming game which has an amazing conclusion with a relating theme to a few possible mental issues.

    Keep this up!

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