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Why Gaming Is Good For Your Mental Health

Jay-Ann Lopez is the founder of the online community Black Girl Gamers, a safe space for women of colour who feel otherwise excluded from the world of gaming. The community, in which women share strategies for overcoming online hate, has amassed 55k followers on Twitter and 37k followers on Amazon’s live-streaming platform, Twitch.

“I was about seven years old when my uncles bought me my first console; a Nintendo,” Jay-Ann says. “I used to play Super Mario all the time, then I got Gameboys and a PlayStation 1, and moved on to games like Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider

When my mum used to present on the radio on the weekends, I would play Doom on the PCs in the studio so I wouldn’t get bored – and my love for gaming kept growing.”

For Jay-Ann and so many others, it’s a form of escapism – immersing yourself completely in fantasy worlds – that’s beneficial to mental health. “Gaming is full of worlds made in other people’s imaginations and exploring the stories of those worlds is such a great stress reliever,” she explains. Historically, video games get a bad rep with some experts claiming they incite violence, but there’s a growing body of evidence showing gaming to have therapeutic benefits too.

It’s why, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, in which self-isolating, social-distancing and spending far too much time inside became the norm, Jay-Ann used the Black Girl Gamers community to bring people together and create a positive environment.

“As gamers, we’re sort of at an advantage as we know how to enjoy ourselves indoors,” Jay-Ann wrote on Twitter at the time, “but for those, gamers or not, who suffer from mental illnesses and may be heavily impacted by staying inside – here are some games that will ease the mind.”

Although we may not be in the throes of lockdown anymore (although who knows when that might change), we’re always looking for ways to protect our mental health. Jay-Ann’s thread recommended games such as The Sims, Animal Crossing and the farming simulation game Stardew Valley, which has been cited in many recent articles for easing depression symptoms.

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