Tag Archives: depression

The Fearsome Four

Our air smells like a wet ashtray this morning. A reminder that our area is still in crisis recovery mode and will be for some time to come.

The air smelled much the same at the diner by the sea on Wednesday night for the not-so-triumphant return of our team, the Fearsome Four as Tim calls us, to the world of Pandemic Legacy. I won’t give any spoilers but I will say that Season 2 is proving to be a lot more difficult than Season 1. We’ve now lost three games in a row, and more and more often we find ourselves facing defeat before we even begin. This game is brutal.

Which didn’t help my mood. I started the evening in high spirits, ready to jump back into the fray. Then realized I didn’t quite remember how to play the game (our last play was in mid-November). Then realized we were going to lose. And lose again. Watching the world fall apart before our eyes, even in just a game, without any humor to accompany the crisis, combined with my already faltering self-esteem and motivation, didn’t really bode well for my energy levels. I was pretty well drained after two hours of gaming. Didn’t help that SOMEONE on the team played through the entire campaign with his other so-called friends while evacuated due to our wildfires last month, so he already knows the rest of the plot and has been banned from giving us any spoilers.

Fortunately, my friends were sympathetic to my plight when I told them I only had one more light game in me before I left for the night, and played a 7p game of 6 nimmt! with me. Which is always good for a laugh. It’s one of my favorite light card games for a group. It has some strategy… but just enough to give you a false sense of security. Still, I came close to winning for a round, which gave me a much needed boost.

In other news, thanks to a very kind soul I am now the proud owner of a brand new copy of Mansions of Madness 2nd Ed! I am super excited to get home tonight, unpack it, and get it to the table real soon.

New Year of Gaming

Happy 2018! Despite feeling like a useless, tired, unenthusiastic lump most of the long weekend, I did manage to spend a good chunk of it gaming.

Friday night my roommates Percephony and runtsta and their best friends gathered to celebrate runtsta’s birthday and play some Gloomhaven, and I retreated to my room to log on and play some 7 Days to Die with some other guys from our gaming group including daylighter and duggo42. We spent the evening leveling the top of a mountain and then after I logged off early at 10 they proceeded to stay up until 3am building a frickking tall tower. You know, the normal kind of exciting things you do on a Friday night… 

Saturday I dragged myself down to our Saturday gaming meetup where I mostly felt like myself (until I ran out of steam and had to go home around 9) and ended the year with three more new games for my 100×1 challenge, including an introduction to Kingdom Death: Monster. I’ve been watching our friend Oscar be obsessed with it from a distance and have been curious about playing with him. I’m still skeptical about the idea that hunting the same three monsters over and over again won’t get dull, but so far I’m intrigued enough to play through a couple more sessions and see. It has a lot of game elements that I find really appealing, and generally I trust his taste in games.

On Sunday the roomies and I ordered pizza and had a few friends over to hang out for the evening. I had been invited to a party and also to go out swing dancing, but I didn’t feel up to being around a lot of people, so I declined both offers. My original plan was Netflix and early to bed. I’m afraid I wasn’t great company and staying up until midnight was rough (and shows where I’m at health-wise considering I was not-infrequently staying up dancing or gaming until after midnight over the summer without trouble, even a few times on worknights). I’m grateful to our friends that they didn’t drag me up to the dining room to play board games and instead were willing to play Fibbage 2 and Quiplash for hours.

But I would have been happy to play some medium-light tabletop games… if I could have played them from the couch. Why is this not a thing? Tabletop games that can be played without a common surface? This would be a great addition to my games collection. There are times that I am torn between playing a game and staying comfy in the living room, but even a lot of party games these days require a surface for cards or a board. We all have smartphones – what about games for Steam that we could stream to our TV and play on our phones, like Fibbage, but that are more serious strategy type games? I suppose Bidiots fits into that category (another Jackbox game we tried out on Sunday night,) but I never fully understood what we were doing. Maybe we need to give it another try.

Finally, yesterday, I was invited to try out TI 4th ed with some friends, but wasn’t feeling up to an 8 hour game or gaming with more strangers. After binging “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” all day on Netflix, my roommates played another game of Monuments with me, and I lost miserably. That’s what I get for playing with people who are a lot smarter than I am…

Now that I’m feeling a tiny bit more like myself and the holidays are over, my Pandemic Legacy group will be reunited this Wednesday, and I’m sure that people will be bringing their new Christmas acquisitions.

Games and Depression

Been struggling with a bout of depression lately, and long story short, it’s miserable.

Last night I had a few close girlfriends over to keep me company, and rather than talk endlessly about myself and how I feel, or sit there incapable of holding a conversation with them about the things on *their* minds, I suggested we play a game of Phase 10. Usually not my top pick for a game, but it was well-suited to the moment for a number of reasons. They’re not gamers, so I needed something they could pick up easily (and even then it took them a few phases to really understand what was going on – probably in part due to my rusty skills in explaining games to non-gamers). Also it’s one of my family games, so it’s familiar and comfortable, which was exactly what I needed at the time.

I realized partway through the game last night, and then reflecting on it this morning, that games will probably be a big part of my recovery. I didn’t have the ability to put together a coherent conversation last night, until we started playing. Then I was still sluggish, but my mind felt clearer. Having something to focus on that was strategic, and wasn’t my problems or my feelings or my fatigued body, helped me feel more like myself. And it was great.

A week and a half ago I wasn’t in that place – I skipped my usual Weds games night in favor of Netflix on the couch. But now the medication has had a small amount of time to clear some of the fog away. I’m still withdrawn from much of my life, avoiding most of the stressful things except for the ones I absolutely have to deal with (like going to work). Every day I’m feeling slightly more like myself, but it’s still a struggle. I feel like I’m rebuilding the structure of my life one stone at a time, and sometimes I need to take stones away when I realize that the supports underneath them aren’t quite stable enough yet. And games help with that – they provide a framework when the structure of my day-to-day life activities feels too overwhelming. And the social aspect is key – the framework is one that my friends are building with me, by following the rules and strategies of the game. So without even realizing that they’re doing it, the people I care about are helping restore me to health, even if they’re bad at listening or empathizing or knowing what to say.

I’m going to attempt to actually keep up with this blog again. It seems that interacting with tabletop gamers is good for my mental health (and doing it away from the information overload of Facebook is even better).

Gaming Can Save Lives

This article from Ars Technica is a great personal narrative about one man’s struggle with deep depression and how the board gaming hobby has helped bring him out of the darkness.

I have suicidal depression—and board games saved my life

This is the part I found the most fascinating:

“Board games give me something that little else does. They give freedom within a constructed framework; players are given the social space to bounce off each other like carnival bumper cars, while remaining safe and bounded. Everyone jockeys to achieve something—whether to become king, to solve the puzzle, or to save the world. The objectives and rules form a kind of joyous arena in a 1990’s-style Gladiator gameshow where the players and walls are covered in brightly colored padding. In your game you might be trying to brutally murder another player’s character, but the game will always make sure that everyone is having fun, that everyone is safe. Every rule is a safety net, letting you walk the tightrope without fear. To someone terrified and unable to deal with social situations, this web of gameplay and rules can be an unbelievable gift.”

This resonated with me – one of the things I appreciate most about the board gaming Meetup group I’m part of is how our events are welcoming to newcomers. All of us are socially awkward weirdos of one shade or another, but once we get over the initial hurdle of welcoming a new person into our midst, and they get over the hurdle of taking that first step to show up to a new place as a stranger, it’s easy to involve them in a game and bring them into the fold. The rules and boundaries of board games make for a safe and structured social encounter. No small talk needed beyond “Hello” and “What kind of games do you like?”.

When I’m having a bad day, sometimes it’s a relief to know that no one will expect me to talk about my bad mood, my worries, or my stresses. Around the game table, none of that matters. My friends will accept me exactly where I’m at and then we’ll put aside everything to immerse ourselves in a game or two for a few hours.

On the other hand, though, sometimes I do want to talk about what’s going on, and that’s where I struggle. Game night can be so focused on the games that there’s not much room for depth of relationship. It’s almost a taboo to start conversations that take away from the game playing. Anything more than light banter is a distraction from the real reason we’re there, and I find myself longing for deeper connection with these people I spend up to 13 hours of each week with.

I’d love to hear from other people about their experiences with depression and board games, or depth of relationship in gaming groups/game nights.