How Video Games Have Rewritten The Rulebook For Self-Care

Girl lounging playing video games on controller

Why were we in such a hurry to grow up when we were kids? It’s something I think about pretty often as a 27-year-old who wouldn’t mind turning back the clock. Specifically to when I didn’t have to think about my finances, the state of the world or how I definitely haven’t gotten enough exercise this week.

That’s on top of the the doctor’s appointment I need to book (am I supposed to be this tired all the time?), the present I need to buy for so-and-so’s birthday. Then there’s work deadlines, dating app matches I unintentionally ghost (the conversation wasn’t that great, anyway!). Plus those messages I was meant to reply to… Last week.

I admit it. Being an adult kind of sucks. There are never enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done. Add in a dash of stress and some brain zoomies — and you have a tightly wound ball of anxiety, ready to implode at any moment. I’m an Aries, so naturally, I’m hot-headed.

As someone who has experienced burnout, I understand the importance of recharging my batteries and practising self-care. I’ve always idolised the girlies who get up early, meditate and go for runs. I’m just not at the stage of life where I voluntarily want to do them. Instead, what recharges my batteries is playing video games.

Unsplash / Sam Pak

To someone who has never picked up a controller, that might sound utterly insane — and look, I get it. My mum was never a big fan of my sister and me playing video games. She said they were addictive and would make our brains rot.

Looking back, the time I spent gaming with my older sister brought me so much joy. With a five-year age gap, gaming was one of the few things we had in common as siblings. Sometimes we would team up. But most of the time, I’d sit right next to her at the computer and watch her play video games. Now, as an adult, I game to destress, but also to recapture the joy I felt playing with my older sister as a kid.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who considers video games to be a peak form of self-care. According to a 2023 study by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), 81% of all Aussies play video games. When looking at the reasons behind why we game, the same study found that 90% do it to relax and destress, 86% to escape and 70% for mental health.

Video games are no longer just tools of pure entertainment. They have become an effective way for adults to practice self-care through the simple act of carving out time each week to do something that brings them joy. For some of us, that involves immersing ourselves in the meditative magic of tending crops in “Stardew Valley”. For others, it’s all about reconnecting to your inner child through the emotionally rich storyline of “Unpacking”.

Witch Beam

Self-care is something that allows you to let go of every other little thing going on in your life. Whether that’s a deadline, an adult responsibility or whatever’s bothering you — and be in the moment. For me, it’s about letting go of the steering wheel and ensuring I take the time to enjoy the journey that is life.

Sometimes that means hanging out with my friends, going on a trip or watching a beautiful sunset. Other times, it could be as simple as curling up on the couch in my comfiest pyjamas and giving myself permission to play video games for hours.

So, the next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, or perhaps you’ve grown tired of doomscrolling, try picking up a controller and playing a video game. I guarantee there’s at least one out there that’ll take the weight of the world off your shoulders. And if you need recommendations, there’s a whole community of us ready to introduce you to the healing powers of video games.

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