Stress is a part of everyday life for almost everyone. There is seemingly no way to completely get away from it. A lot of the time, we, as a people, turn to a vice in order to either reduce our stress or to forget about it for a period of time. There are a plethora of vices out there, like going for a run or drinking a beer. Not all vices are healthy; I think you could make a compelling argument that most vices people turn to are unhealthy.
Because of the pressures I face, mostly at work due to the nature of what my team does with very limited resources, I definitely have stress that I need to manage. While I do occasionally partake in drinking alcohol (mostly beer, though I did recently discover that I do like wine) I do not drink to reduce stress, for I would end up drinking far more than I would like (I am a one-beer-a-couple-days-a-week kind of guy). I do run, but I find that it does absolutely nothing to reduce my stress (I envy people who can reduce their stress through physical exercise). So, what does a person like me do to manage their stress?
For me, not all games or types of gaming are equal when it comes to reducing stress. If I want to get rid of a lot of stress in a short amount of time for a short amount of time, games like Dynasty Warriors is a good game for me to play. I can pick from a number of Chinese folk heroes and suppress the Yellow Turban rebellion, where, through the course of the scenario, I can defeat over 1,000 enemies and a few other Chinese folk heroes in the process. It is great fun and does reduce stress quite well while you are playing.
If I want more prolonged stress reduction, I can play a game like Mass Effect (Mass Effect 2 is my favorite of the Mass Effect games) or Dragon Age (the first one is awesome, second is not bad, and I haven’t had the privilege of playing the third installment yet). These games offer amazing characters combined with an amazing story and incredibly fun game play. I am drawn more to these types of games in general, as the stories are fantastic. While the combat is great and does help to reduce stress like Dynasty Warriors, I find that the amazing story offers more of a distraction from my everyday life. I care about the characters and what they are doing and trying to accomplish and thus lose myself in their story, completely forgetting, for a time, my current stress. Unfortunately, I tend to start thing again about my stress either in the middle of playing or immediately after I wrap up.
Tabletop roleplaying, however, is where I completely forget about or greatly reduce my stress. Since I roleplay every week, I usually have stress saved up so I can get rid of it during a session. Unlike the roleplaying video games mentioned above where you are playing someone else’s story, you are playing your story while you tabletop roleplay. Granted, it isn’t you exactly; it is a character completely created from your imagination that you are playing, and thus you have a deeper connection with them. Since they do not exist in the real world, they do not have any of the problems you have in the real world; they aren’t stressed out from your job, so it is incredibly easy to lose yourself in your character.
This is part of the reason why I mentioned in an earlier blog (Tabletop Roleplaying Games: An Introduction) that I look forward to my roleplaying sessions every week. It’s where I dump most of the week’s stress that I built up. For as long as the session lasts, I get to be someone else with completely different problems/goals/motivations/etc. Unlike with video games, after a roleplaying session, instead of my stress creeping back up, I will often stay later discussing things about the session with my friends. We will go over how good the session was and what we hope to do next time. Or, as often is the case, something funny and off-topic was mentioned during the session, so we will all gather around an iPad or computer to watch some interesting video. All in all, roleplaying is the best stress relief for me, as it has longer lasting effects over other methods of gaming.
Do you also turn to gaming to reduce stress? What games do you play? Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.
Stressed cat image credit: http://nerdomeblog.com/2013/03/04/on-not-being-stressed-out/