Many people that are avid gamers do it for social reasons, playing online with their friends or in a group setting. However, another part of the gaming community – an arguably larger part of the community – are gamers because it’s a release from the depression and anxiety that they suffer through on a daily basis. Many people find video games at a young age as a coping mechanism from the things that make life challenging like connecting socially with peers.
In turn, many of these gamers grow up to go into the business of video games themselves and this doesn’t mean that they’re magically cured from the problems that they had in their youth. There are more than a few video game developers, programmers and journalists that have taken their own lives because they didn’t understand how to cope with the stress they dealt with – even in an industry that they love as much as video games.
Which brings me to Matt Hughes, a freelance reporter that took his life in 2012. This event was tragic to say the least, especially because he didn’t show any signs that he was contemplating suicide before it happened. The good that came out of the event however, was that Russ Pitts and Susan Arendt, editors that worked with Hughes, realized that they had to do something before any more tragedy struck.
“As we were more aware of this issue the easier it was to see it and the easier it was to talk about it, the lack of awareness of mental health issues, it’s not exactly passive. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and the stigma contributes to this sort of feeling that mental health issues are to be avoided at all costs.” Pitts said.
In 2012, shortly after the loss of Matt Hughes, Pitts and Arendt launched the Take This blog, which encouraged people to share their own stories of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts within the gaming community. Hundreds of people responded, eager to share their story and hopefully help others that were suffering as well. In short it was a huge success.
From that blog, Take This has formed into a nonprofit organization that encourages not only the gaming community, but everyone to share their mental health stories in order to raise awareness. The group sponsors rooms at some major gaming conventions called AFK rooms that allow people to have a quiet place to collect their thoughts and calm down in the huge hustle and bustle that some of these cons have. The AFK rooms also have a licensed clinical physician on stand by in case of panic attacks or suicidal thoughts or urges.
Take This has done a lot for mental health all together, but they’ve done a lot for gaming specifically. The video game industry can be a very stressful place sometimes, especially as a developer on a short deadline when a game can be hit or miss for your whole career. Take This has given us a place that we can find solace and recover from the burnout that happens sometimes. Most of all, when the world feels overwhelming they help us remember why we love the world of video games so much.