The Importance of Games and LGBTQ+ Mental HealthPosted: 30 Jun 2023
Games are a haven for so many people for different reasons. At Safe, we love to celebrate those reasons, and share the joy that players get from video games.
For Sky, our Partnerships & Training Officer, this is the first time they’ve felt able to ‘participate’ in Pride month.
I guess you could say for the longest time I’ve sort of felt like I’m not queer enough to be able to speak in these spaces. Since embracing that side of myself more, I’ve felt a ton of gender euphoria and been able to more accurately pinpoint the things that make me feel dysphoric, which has helped me to mitigate these things impacting my life.
“I’ve also been amazed to see how often asexuality is being discussed. For a long time, I didn’t feel like I could describe my sexuality as someone who is ace but panromantic, so being surrounded by other similar people has helped me to find my identity. I’m so grateful for joining Safe In Our World and for being immersed in this community of people – despite identifying as nonbinary since 2017-ish, I’ve never been open about my gender in the workplace.
In my last job before Safe, I had ‘she/they’ in my email signature (despite 90% of the time wanting neutral pronouns) but would never correct people or discuss it openly. Joining Safe was my opportunity to have a fresh start with a bunch of people who didn’t know me before, and I was able to enter this space using the correct pronouns and being more myself.”
Before we dive into more stories surrounding the importance of games and LGBTQ+ mental health, one of the wonderful contributors, Élise in the Clouds, has chosen a theme for our readers to listen to whilst you read the stories and words from the games community below.
Why are games important?
We reached out to hear from a number of LGBTQ+ gamers in the Safe In Our World community (and beyond!)
“Video games (and especially puzzle games) engage my cognitive abilities, sharpen problem-solving skills, and provide a therapeutic escape from daily stress. In a well designed digital puzzle, I find solace, joy, and a renewed sense of clarity. They say playing puzzles into old age helps keep your memory, creativity, and problem solving sharp, so I always make time for them.” – MairiSpaceship
“Throughout my life gaming has offered a huge sense of comfort, escape & helped form some long lasting friendships. Whether I needed to hide myself away in a beautiful captivating JRPG story on my own, or needed a way to better socialise and find friends with multi-player games and meetups; gaming has been there for me either way. Needless to say, it’s helped me through a lot of difficult times over the years and continues to do so.” – TristaBytes
“I’m the youngest of three, I have a big sister ten years older than me that played a lot of video games back when we lived in Belgium. She introduced my brother and I into video games, he played too, but I preferred to watch them play. I’ve started playing only around my teenage years. I still like watching others play, because it’s like watching personal stories unraveling before my eyes, especially when it’s narrative games. In my day job as a clinical psychologist, I still watch other patients play video games! That hasn’t changed.” – Élise in the Clouds
“When my agoraphobia stops me from leaving the house, games are what I turn to so that I don’t overthink my situation too much, they help keep me in some kind of routine when I’m unable to do anything else and they help give me some kind of feeling of accomplishment when I’m unable to work on my anxiety.” – Emily
Video games have allowed me to explore who/what I am as a person in safe and private manner. They helped me feel comfortable and accepted for who I am and who I want to love. Remember, love is love! – SoulKillerShep
“Games have truly changed my life for the better. I have been able to experience so many wonderful storylines that have supported me and gave me comfort when life felt bleak. I also found such a compassionate community with which I can be my whole self and express joy without judgement.” – Ash / ashiirosee
“In every game, a creative team involved has conceptualized their ideas and stories to create worlds that players know and love. Paired with that, is a treasure trove of players from different backgrounds around the world. These individuals gave me an insight into their experiences and a sense of belonging in safe spaces that don’t require face-to-face interaction.” – Kohi
“When I was younger, books were my escape. I started reading when I was very young, and I would lose myself completely in books. Then I discovered video games, which were kinda like books, but interactive! And to this day, my favourite kind of games are the ones that let me create a story, however small.” – Quinn
“Final Fantasy 14 has been an incredibly important game to me over the last few years, both in it’s handling of mental health and positivity, but also around gender and sexuality. Though I recognise Final Fantasy has work to do in terms of representation in other areas, without spoilers, I particularly appreciate some of the races in-game who are genderless, use non-gendered pronouns, and that this is a fact simply accepted and understood by the people around them.” – Paige Harvey
“Being an openly queer transgender man with bipolar, games have helped me through very dark times and given me friendships for life. They’ve let me explore worlds where I can be anyone, helped me handle traumas and let me find characters that look like myself. Games have truly saved my life.” – Gabriel Eriksson Sahlin
“Games have always been my go-to for escapism. I struggle with anxiety and games allow me to explore situations, identity, and gain that sense of achievement when in real life, I sometimes feel incapable. It’s been amazing to follow a career in games, knowing how fundamental they have been in helping my mental health.” – Adele Richards, Social Media Coordinator at Sumo Group Ltd.
“The hardest thing of having PTSD is the never-ending reoccurring nightmare that plagues every moment of my life; I can never full enjoy my life achievements like others because the fear of it is all a dream and I will go back to the torture I am destined to suffer. In addition, over the years I found myself avoiding watching a lot of movie/tv due to fear of triggering and relive my nightmares through the screen”, they explain.
One common therapy method for PTSD is EMDR, the gist is to use muscle movement to help process the trauma. However, it is also hard for a lot of people because the intense therapy can also worsen anxiety and panic attacks.
Playing videogames allows me to explore difficult topics that I may not be able to otherwise, whilst the use of hand muscles to interact allows me to process the difficult conversations without feeling trapped in my nightmares again.”
“I am turning 30 this year and working as a game designer which I love every moment of it. I am also starting IGDA neurodivergent SIG, hoping to help other neurodivergent people to find a place to thrive.”
“My whole life I have been feeling like an outsider, unable to understand why people are hating me and why I can’t do the right thing and make my parents proud. The support I have gained from other people in game industry helps me to make peace with my autism and who I am. I feel because there are so few autistic role models, a lot of us grew up trying so hard to fit in a box that were never meant to be, and we suffered because of it. However, I struggle daily with my own trauma and fear. I am a Mod at Save Point, where I try to help other marginalized people like me, but hearing the same abuse story is also very hard on my own mental health.”
“Every day I am balancing between my desire to help other people like me and me just wanting to hide in my blanket and cry non-stop. I am thankful for what I have, but secretly wish things weren’t that hard.”
“I am living, I am smiling when I can, and I have made peace with the fact that my parents will forever be disappointed in me not being a male doctor or lawyer. But I have to live for myself once.”
Chel Wong’s Story
“In a previous lifetime I was once an educator, but I burned out. I wouldn’t wish burnout on my worst enemy. At the time I was working 11 hour days, and when I got home I would only have time to eat dinner, shower, and then sleep. I felt like a husk, and it truly felt like I had to relearn how to be human.
But one of the things I remember that helped me the most recover from burnout was playing video games. Gaming has always been such a huge part of my life but for an entire year I didn’t have the time to even be myself. I sat down and played Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment.
I remember having a cognizant thought of “wow, this game is fun. I’m…having…fun?”
Video games have unironically helped me through some of my heaviest times in life. When I felt alone in high school, it was how I met my first online friends. When I had doubts about where my life was going, having a concrete goal in games helped keep me grounded. Games gave me a safe space to explore myself. During the pandemic, Animal Crossing New Horizons provided a lot more clothing options. I had just started transitioning and trying clothes on is a nightmare, juggling sizes, prices, how things fit on your body specifically, let alone the fashion itself. Animal Crossing gave me the opportunity to explore stress free. It helped me find my true self.
Gaming’s been an important part of my life, not but just because it’s fun, but because it helped me survive. And after I had the opportunity to stop worrying about surviving, it gave me the freedom to be happy again.”
- Global LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Resources can be found here, or you can Find Help here.
- “Draknek have a “Cerebral Puzzle Showcase” which I’ve found really useful for finding new puzzle games each year and for folks looking to design their own puzzle games (not just video games, but escape rooms and board games too, I try to keep an up to date resource of tools on my portfolio)” – MairiSpaceship
- Limit Break Mentorship is a mentorship program aimed at underrepresented people working in the UK games industry. Participants are paired with a mentor who is an established professional in their field.
- Out Making Games connect and empower the LGBTQ+ community working in the games industry across the UK
- Gayming Mag is the home of queer geek culture