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RPGs as Therapy: How RPGs Make Us Better

Depression and OCD
by Kyle E. Miller
When brain chemicals conspire to make you miserable, comfort comes from few sources. Some spin the lid off a bottle of pills, others appeal to God, and others yet follow booze and sex to a harsher hell. Why not try video games?

Compared to other forms of entertainment escapism, video games engage more senses more often. Music and sound effects, stimulating graphics, words and numbers to process, plots to follow, and what nothing else offers tactile engagement. Distraction is a major component in healing ailments such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression, and video games take your mind away to other worlds like nothing else. And, aside from immersive FPSs like Bioshock, RPGs often work the best to soothe mind and soul.

"The rhythm of Persona 3 is a carefully measured and flawlessly executed exercise in therapy..."
Persona 3 is like a gratuitously large bowl of ice cream. It could almost open a new subgenre: comfort RPGs. Something about the gentle flow of time, from school days to the cicada-filled evenings of summer break back to chilly, leaf-scattered school mornings, makes Persona 3 an exercise in relaxation and contentment. Social links provide quiet, but powerful moments and talking to the members of S.E.E.S. every night before bed provides the same blessings as close friends. Perfectly balanced combat - intense at the right moments - engages the intellect, while persona management stimulates other regions of the brain to provide steady distraction. The exploration of Tartarus is almost monkish in its irresistible repetition. The rhythm of Persona 3 is a carefully measured and flawlessly executed exercise in therapy that goes beyond the already powerful distraction video games provide.

Even if you aren't plagued by a chronic mental malady, RPGs can heal minor hurts and make harder times seem easier. RPGs like Persona 3 can make you feel among friends when all others have abandoned you, make you laugh after a harrowing breakup, and make you cry for a reason other than your own misery. As a form of healing escapism, video games are second to none, and games like Persona 3 are stolid panaceas with only a rather benign side effect: you may wish to keep playing long after their healing spells are cast.

Read More:
Anger - by Robert Steinman Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain - by Kimberley Wallace Catharsis - by Stephen Meyerink Bad Attitudes - by Bob Richardson Depression and OCD - by Kyle E. Miller

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