Featured ImageThis episode’s featured image is taken from Unsplash. It was created by Brett Jordan, and the original can be found here
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This episode contains my thoughts on gatekeepers and those who offer unsolicited mental health diagnoses. As such, it deals with discussing mental health issues and how playing video games can help.
These topics may not be relevant to the ears of the young and innocent, as such please listen responsibly.
This episode is yet another example of why we should ditch the gatekeepers
check your podcatcher for a link
except this time I have some real-world examples of gatekeeping happening in the wild. And a form of gatekeeping that you might not have initially thought actually was gatekeeping. This time, we’ll be talking about a specific series of tweets; these tweets were sent out in 2022, and have lived rent-free in my head for a while because of how infuriatingly horrid they are.
This is The Waffling Taylors Raw with Jay, a series of shorter episodes of indefinite length. These episodes will cover shorter topics which don’t really fit well within the scope of the show, or topics that I want to cover in my own way. That’s not to say that we won’t cover these topics in the main show, but I’d like to take a whack at them here, first.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
Mental Health and Gaming
This episode is going to focus on a series of tweets (not sent by us or any friends of the show) which poke fun at both video gamers and those who suffer from mental health issues. Please note that I’m talking about the tweets, not those who suffer.
Because these tweets are so egregious in their language, I won’t be linking directly to them - mostly because I don’t want to drive any more traffic towards them at all. But I will be quoting them verbatim, so if you really must see the originals, you can type the quotes into your search engine of choice and you’ll find them.
If you have concerns about your mental health, please speak to a professional. And if you know of someone who is suffering, please help them to find a professional who can help.
Mental health issues should NEVER be the target of ire and parody. Mental health issues are very real, and some of us content creators (myself included) are doing our best to take the stigma away from getting help. One of the best examples of those who are trying to remove the stigma is the fantastic podcast Capes on the Couch.
we had Anthony for Capes on the Couch on the show not that long back, there’s a link to the episode in the show notes; I’d definitely recommend listening to our episode and then leap-frogging over to their show.
Because it’s so important, I’ll say it again: if you need help, please go get help. There is no stigma in getting the help that you need. And if someone you know is struggling, please help them to get the help that they need.
On September 11th, 2022 a Twitter user posted the following:
As an adult, playing video games for long periods of time is a form of depression. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this. Think about the 100 greatest moments of your life. Do any of those moments include video games? Probably not. And this comes from a lifetime gamer.
Let me level-set here: I’m not saying that we should attack this person, or that people shouldn’t necessarily consume their content. What I’m getting at is that this person (and people like them) continually use “hot takes” in order to drum up publicity for their content, and by responding to them and drawing attention to their content we give them legitimacy - even if what you’re doing is proving them wrong or providing the opposite argument.
I fully realise the irony in what I’ve just said.
The was a lot of immediate backlash from this tweet, with lots of people quoting it or replying directly to it. Those people were fighting the good fight, for sure. But they were also giving that Twitter user what they wanted: engagement.
Social Media and How It Works
Before we get on to my opinions on this tweet and others like it, I wanted to give you all a quick primer of how social media sites work.
It’s all about engagement: the more that people like, share, and reply to your content, the more people see it. And the more that people see it, the higher it will get in your “suggested” view. This is usually the default view for your feed, it’s not chronological (it isn’t showing you things as they happen) but it’s “hand-picked” for you. You’re seeing the things that fall into your interests which have the most engagement.
By replying, retweeting, liking, mentioning, whatever-ing a piece of social media content, you are telling that platform that this piece of content is important to those with a similar interest. In the case of the above tweet, it had viral-like views in the first 48 hours because people were outraged by it - and rightly so. The problem with this is that its negative message started to spread among video game and mental health Twitter very quickly. Which meant that more people saw it, and more people went through to the person’s account to learn more about them; at which point they learnt more about the other content that they put out there.
Some of those people will have engaged with this user’s content which is what they wanted in the first place. Granted, it wouldn’t have been a large percentage of the people who were checking this user out, but it would have been enough for them to have seen this as a positive experiment. This “hot take” was used specifically to drive engagement to their content.
You may not have been one of the people who clicked through and checked out their other content, but there would have been a percentage of people who did.
For the time being, let’s ignore the part where they said:
And this comes from a lifetime gamer.
My biggest problem with this tweet is the unsolicited mass diagnosis of mental health issues given out to anyone who plays video games for, and I quote: “long periods.”
Firstly, this was clearly an attempt at a “hot take” being used to create controversy, in the hope that it would drive views to their website and content. This is evidenced by two things:
- Their Twitter timeline is filled with CTAs for checking out their content, with hardly any engagement from the greater Twitter-verse.
- They quickly followed up the original tweet with almost immediate back-peddling due to the visibility that it got:
Well that escalated quickly. Just to clarify, this doesn’t apply to E-Gamers or people who have turned gaming into a career. This isn’t about someone who plays a few hours a week. This is about people who consistently devote a double-digit percentage of their lives to gaming.
Sticking with that reply for a second: they seem to be OK with people who have made gaming a career. Presumably they mean those who work in the massive gaming industry; which is set to hit $100.56 billion by 2024
there’s a source for that number in the show notes; interesting that the movie industry is only just breaching the $100 billion mark and the music industry the niche chosen by this user is around $29 billion
But if you do something that you enjoy for no other reason that the fact that you enjoy it, then they think you are suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. This in itself is sad, but worse still is that the “hot take” was used specifically to drum up publicity for their content.
What We Skipped Over
We’ve skipped over a few things here, firstly:
And this comes from a lifetime gamer.
what does this mean in the context of their original tweet? They are saying that if any of the joyous moments in your life are related to video games, then you have undiagnosed mental illness.
Firstly, that’s a hugely sweeping statement. As I’ve said in the past
in my Play and How Important Is It episode - link in the show notes
One thing that “serious” people say about play is that it’s for children, and that’s a real shame. It’s my opinion that play is super important to everyone, and can help almost anyone to solve certain types of problem.
Play is a super important part of our lives, and people often conflate play with something that children do, which leads them to think that it’s a waste of time. This is simply not true.
Literally anything that we do which brings us joy can be seen as play. As Greg McKeown says in “Essentialism”:
Anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than a means to an end - whether it’s flying a kite or listening to music or kicking a football
Play can be anything, it doesn’t have to be games related (video or otherwise). I enjoy noodling around on my bass guitar, for instance. Sure, I’ve recorded pieces and I’ve worked with bands and artists. But my heart is in playing around and seeing what I can find and play, rather than making money from it.
Not everything has to be a way of making money. Our mental health and ability to relax is more important than anything else. Because without us, there isn’t anything else - we can’t make money if we can’t get through our day.
Reading between the lines of what this Twitter user had said, they are advocating getting off the couch and getting some work done. Well, Dr. Brené Brown (a world leading researcher on workplace behaviour) has this to say about play:
The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression
Which means that this user was telling people (albeit subtly) that they should stop playing and get to work. But Dr. Brown says that the opposite of play is depression. So why should we abandon something which helps to maintain a healthy state of mind? Because some person on the internet told us to?
Again, I appreciate the irony of being someone on the internet who is telling you want to do
Secondly, what if some of the 100 greatest moments of a person’s life include video games? There’s more to playing video games than just sitting with a controller in your hand. Some of my most cherished memories of video game playing have been couch-based co-op or competitive play, where the people I’d been playing with have provided me a wonderful respite from what’s going on in the real world.
That rest and relaxation, combined with the social aspects are what make us human. Some of our earliest stories are taken from oral tradition; that’s literally everyone sitting around the camp fire and night and swapping stories. These stories acted as both a social glue which held us together AND a way for us to share knowledge and experience.
The exact same can be said for couch-based co-op and competitive play. As can be said from post-game locker room shenanigans in sports. Being part of the group requires us to take part in those group activities, and being part of the group actually helps with our mental health.
But what about solo play? Well, playing video games by ourselves can help us in many different ways.
The amount of studies which have shown that they increase hand-eye coordination and puzzle solving is off the charts. So I don’t need to talk about that.
But playing games solo can also help us to grow emotionally. Some story-based games can allow us to explore complex emotions (as we’ll hear about in a moment), just like a well-written TV show, book, or movie can. So I’m all for allowing someone to explore thoughts, emotions, and situations in a safe environment through video games - just like they might via other forms of media.
The other thing that video games can provide is a meditative state. By focusing on one particular thing (in traditional mindfulness practise we focus on the breath), you can allow for both a great calm to come over you, but also for your sub-concious brain to take over and help solve some problem or issue that you are facing. And that problem or issue doesn’t have to be work based, either. They can be sudden bouts of clarity on any subject matter. These are often called “shower thoughts”, and there is an entire subreddit devoted to them at r/showerthoughts.
How We Responded And Why
In a direct response to seeing this person’s tweet appear on our feed, and due to the justifiable outrage related to it, we took to Twitter and posted:
Yes we’ve seen the tweet about how if you play games then you must be suffering with some form of depression.
No we’re not going to link to it and give the person more views.
Here’s a hot take: do what makes you happy, enjoy it if you can, & be cool to each other.
- Jay & Squidge
I’m going to quote myself again for a second here, so I apologise in advance. I then went to LinkedIn and posted this (there’s a link in the show notes), a short while later:
I was at a talk a month back, and the speaker (Robin Ince) said something that has stuck with me: "Be careful with words; words are like shrapnel."
He spoke on a lot of topics, but that [sentence] spoke very deeply to me. I would likely extend it and say that some sentences are like land-mines; they can lay in wait for decades until someone trips them.
What I’m getting at, is that it pays to be careful with the words that you use. You never know, what you might say in the line of “banter” or “just having a laugh” might be causing people harm.
As with all things, be excellent to each other.
tl;dr -> words hurt people, be careful with the words that you choose to use.
At roughly the same time, I also tweeted out:
Remember: if you enjoy it, its never a waste of time.
It’s YOUR time, do what you want with it. Ignore the trolls and naysayers.
As long as its not against the law, who effing cares!?
Now go have some fun.
But stepping away from their word choices for a moment, let’s take a moment to talk about their idea of, “playing video games for long periods of time is a form of depression.” I wonder whether they would extend this to reading books, watching movies, or listening to music? Or is it just interactive media and story telling?
You could argue that reading books, watching movies, and listening to music can all be solo activities which take people away from “real life” for long periods of time in the same way that playing a video game would.
Sure, not every game has a story to tell or a lesson to teach. But a lot of them do.
Not only that, but video games can literally bring people together. This is something that friend of the show Jason Maddison said in his “I Have Lived” piece for Lock-On volume 1:
I was back at school: a place where I had few real friends, and got bullied sometimes… What I noticed though, was that pretty much everyone in my class got the PS1 for Christmas as well. I was able to share my excitement and experiences with the other kids; I felt wanted and part of the group.
And story-based video games can help to teach empathy and foster emotional growth too:
[the PlayStation and gaming] taught me at a key transition in my life (adolescence into adulthood) how to feel more human, how to relate more positively to the world around me and how to be more compassionate to other people, despite their capricious tendencies… yes [the game setting] was fictional. But the feelings it created within my being were more real than anything I had felt before.
What I really like about this particular part of Jason’s piece is that he talks about the social aspects of playing a solo game. In the above quoted section, he’s talking about how Final Fantasy VII helped him to grow emotionally and better connect with the people around him. Even a game which is played alone can bring people together when they choose to talk about it afterwards - just like people who talk about the TV shows, movies, books, and music that they consume do.
If you’ve ever been to a big gaming convention or event, you’ll find thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people with similar tastes. Most of them will likely want to talk to you about their favourites, and you can make some real life-long friends at those kinds of events. And it doesn’t even have to be the games themselves which brings people together.
Back at EGX in 2019, Squidge and I attended a very fun screening of the Dead or Alive movie where members of the audience were asked to get up and play through recreations of the in-movie fights, but with Dead or Alive 2 on the PS2.
And our good friend Sakura sent this in for our Pokémon 25th anniversary episode:
You don’t realise the power and effect Pokémon has given to people universally, until those first few notes of the original theme song play and you see a venue holding a 1000+ attendees, suddenly stop whatever they were doing and all sing the song in unison with such passion in their voices - everyone in that room is rethinking their own adventure together with everyone in that moment. It’s beautiful and makes you feel wholesome that your part of such a worldwide phenomena
And the interesting thing is that books, movies, music, and TV shows can have the affect too. After all, they are stories and stories can affect us deeply. As can tweets.
It’s worth remembering that the original poster of the tweet that sparked this whole thing off was probably hoping that people would come together by consuming their content. To me, it’s a very strange stance to have taken (and I’m extrapolating here):
to say that anything which brings people together (either during the enjoyment of the thing or after it) is a sign of serious mental health issues if that thing is a video game, otherwise it’s ok.
Please, choose your words wisely. And if someone has a hobby which brings them joy, live that joy with them or allow them to live that joy without sticking your two cents in. It’s their life, and they can do what they want with their time; as can you.
I’ve actually done three other “Raw With Jay” episodes on very similar topics, and I’ll link them in the show notes:
- play and how important it is talks about how play, in any of it’s forms (including creating music) can be both refreshing, and can help with maintaining mental health
- let’s ditch the gatekeepers talks about why we need to not give gatekeepers (those who say “you’re not a real…") the time of day. We need to ignore them and carry on with our lives
- entitlement talks about how none of us, regardless of who we are and what we do, are entitled to any kind of special treatment
If you play games, great! If you don’t, also great! It also doesn’t matter to me whether you call yourself a “gamer” or not. As long as you’re cool with everyone, then we’ll get on.
In the words of Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan:
Be excellent to each other
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- Play Matters by Miguel Sicart
- Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Dr. Stuard Brown, MD
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Dr. Brene Brown
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Links to the music used in the podcast can be found below. Definitely check them out, because they're amazing tracks by awesome musicians.
- Intro music is Massive Scratch - Eight Bit/Chiptune
- Outro Music is Massive Scratch - Eight Bit/Chiptune