I never know how open or guarded I should be on the internet. Usually I try to hide some of the more intimate or personal details/events of my life but for the sake of this discussion I’m going to be candid and throw some honest details out there. We cool? I’m going to assume we’re cool.
I struggle with Bipolar Disorder. The type I have is Childhood/ Early Onset Bipolar, meaning the papers were stamped and signed all official around age ten. What this all leads to is that I’ve been dealing with all of this for a long time and that has fortunately allowed me time to learn to read the patterns my mind goes through, various coping skills, and how to keep composure when the world feels topsy turvy. Still, sometimes my brain sucker punches me and it’s a bit of a struggle to stagger back up.
Sometimes it’s more than a sucker punch that knocks me down. Sometimes it’s a big blow that knocks the wind out of me and I fall flat to the floor. When that happens it’s hard to stand back up. Sometimes the floor holds me down and I have to teach myself how to stand, walk, and move all over again. This was the case for me for about a month or two a while back and is a part of the reason why I’ve been so inactive this so far this year.This “knocked down” state isn’t exclusive to those coping with mental illness. Lots of circumstances can lead to this point. There are lots of overlapping feelings and conflicts regardless of the source. For example it can be easier to lie about it under a filter. It’s easy to keep a chatty, quirky front online on places like twitter and Facebook on a screen, talking about Sega Saturn Trivia or SNES ports on the surface with strategic use of smiley emoticons. On the other side of the screen it’s common for sleep schedules to reverse, eat too much or too little or indulge in hobbies in mindless or counterproductive ways. Brainless button mashers, needlessly long drawn out rocky quests, etc. It’s commonly thought that video games do not help this lowered state of mind, often hindering it. I disagree. Video games can be tool to motivate and inspire. When I was really down I decided to try all sorts of options in media and turned to games that fostered themes and experiences that are proactive and it really helped. So, if you are depressed, anxious, set back or struggling, here are some ideas for games that might help you get back on your feet.
Super Mario World (SNES)
This was a tough choice because so many Mario games foster nice experiences and feelings. In the end, I chose Super Mario World. Super Mario World encapsulates some of the best positive things from mario and other golden era 2D platformers. The art is creative and interesting, the music is chipper and inviting, and the gameplay levels, and characters are charming, accessible, and fun. The game is just… pleasant. Difficulty is just right so you never feel cheated or bored, just accomplished. The game is long enough to keep you busy in a happy, productive mode for a good while and levels divide the whole thing into appropriately sized chunks for healthily timed play sessions. It’s a game that can clear some of the fog from your eyes with friendly engagement.Sometimes little cheerful moments are powerful enough to open your eyes to more around you or contemplation of you yourself.
The World Ends With You (DS)
Does The World Ends With You really count as a retro game at this point? It’s nine years old, so maybe, maybe not. But I’m the writer here. This is my article and this game fits right at home for this topic so I’m gonna do what I want. The World Ends With You is a great game on every level, (and my contender for best Nintendo DS game ever.) With themes of redemption, trust, vulnerability, friendship, and acceptance, this game is easily a contender as a great aid to getting back on your feet and finding ways to feel less alone. The characters in this game struggle, and more importantly grow and evolve as people. These personal and emotional struggles with dire consequences are overcome in inspiring ways, not just in plot either. The protagonist Neku and his various partners. The paths and personalities shape progression and influential moments of play, like the accentuating touches like dialog in battle or players might view NPCs or mechanics at different times. There are definitely shades of gray here. Gameplay wise TWEWY battles are action heavy having the player control both characters at once. Protagonist Neku with an array of exchangeable powers on the touch screen with buttons controlling the partner at the top. This further engrains the social/trust your partners themes throughout the rest of the game. On the overworld you can read the minds of NPCs and learn about feelings and thoughts and drives unfiltered. It allows a level of closeness and personal connection rarely seen like this. These points leave a positive impact on the player. It’s easy to take these preachings, struggles, and triumphs from The World Ends With You and apply them to your own life. Keeping it all in mind might make the walk to work or dreaded chatty cashier feel meaningful or empowering when at first you don’t want to be noticed or speak to other souls. Look. Call. Search for something or someone. As they say in the game, “the world ends with you. If you want to enjoy life, expand your world.”
Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD/PSX/GBA/PSP)
It doesn’t matter what platform you play this one on Sega CD, Playstation, (though hopefully not on GBA, make it your last choice option,) you should give Lunar a try. This game is magical. It’s an adventure for the books with a heart to match. Lunar: The Silver Star, and it’s sequel Lunar 2: Eternal Blue are adventures you really feel as a player. The love, friendship, determination, and hope on screen really rub off in a simple but palpable way. While the storytelling and characters are deftly crafted there’s a simplicity to it that carries throughout the rest of the game. Battles are more or less simple turn based with some character placement strategy lightly peppered on top, graphics are nice but far from cutting edge, etc. But this is all good for my point. Lunar is enchanting but accessible. You get a taste of what it is right away. You feel it without slogging along. The run time is respectable so you can get a lot out of the experience while feeling accomplished, inspired, and warm hearted along the way. These feelings and attributes are wonderful when one needs the confidence to find a goal and set for it. When the mind and spirit are overburdened with too much weight. Lunar can let some love into your heart and a confident shine to your eye, if you allow it to do so.
NiGHTS Into Dreams (Saturn/PSN/XBLA)
In some ways, NiGHTS Into Dreams was designed around the idea of brushing yourself off and going for the goal. The whole series is just so….inviting. The art, the music, the level design and environments all fit the dream motif of the game. If you pay attention each level has elements that tie into Jungian psychology and archetypes illustrating growth and maturity. The major idea of NiGHTS is overcoming obstacles and growing from facing them. The two children in the game, Claris and Elliot experience harsh events that hold them back from moving forward and reaching a larger potential. They find NiGHTS running from nightmares and with his help they work out their issues in the dream world so they find their own strength to persevere in reality. This is reflected in the gameplay of NiGHTS Into Dreams. It’s not hard to play but difficult to master and it’s easy to get sucked into playing a few levels to try and better how you do, to push you further. There’s a lot on and below the surface in NiGHTS about the value of human potential. NiGHTS teaches you are the one who can defeat your nightmares because you are strong enough to do so. This game means a lot to me and it has a real power behind it, and that power can pass on to you.
Parappa The Rapper AND Space Channel 5 (PS1/Dreamcast/PS2)
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t choose just one of these games for this article. They are both so similar and so special. Dropping one just wasn’t going to happen.
Space Channel 5 has been one of my favorite games for a long time. Parappa is literally all about believing. They both are go-to experiences for jumpstarting my heart and my brain. The style, art, music, gameplay all do a number on my mood and motivation. With Space Channel 5 a lot of it has to do with the tone and the characters. The whole galaxy is in terrible peril… in the silliest way possible. The odds are stacked against Ulala and she takes it seriously, which makes all the efforts absurd and delightful. Everyone comes together in the game and that lighthearted look at crazy problems makes you tweak your perspective a bit. A lot of this also applies to Parappa. The paper thin characters and crayon cartoony style holds the player’s attention and the mishaps and solutions are charmingly goofy. As I previously mentioned, Parappa’s whole spiel is confidence and perseverance. His catchphrase is “I gotta believe!” and it works. He makes things better and he does it by being happy productive. It’s hard for that not to rub off on you after playing a level or two. Both games are short but that just means you can get the best from them quickly, whenever you want with no slow or cumbersome build up to player favorite moments. Once again simplicity is a blessing with my theme here today. Life can be hard. The lens we look through can seem bleak or crowded. Sometimes throwing seriousness out the window can lift a lot of weight. Throwing doubt and pressure from what’s to come aside to wipe it all clean and simply believe you can do it, that’s invaluable. Both of these games can elevate you to better places and they can do it quickly, easily, and frequently. Life is waiting outside for you. Believe in yourself. You’ve deserve it. Walk through the day a little less seriously. It can do nothing but help. You just gotta push start.
The truth is no one is happy all the time. No one feels perfect or proud every day of the week. To quote the movie Heathers, “if you were happy every day of your life you wouldn’t be a human being, you’d be a game show host.” It’s ok to fall down. It’s a natural part of life. It’s easy to sink into self comfort and avoidance or deny yourself good things, but those favorite things can be your ally. You need power. Not of the nintendo magazine or glove variety. You need to utilize yourself. If you love video games, that’s good. Use that love. Be better and stand up. Try. Keep trying. Push start, gain experience, and rank up along the way. You have unlimited continues.