Many of us play video games to help us relax after a busy day, or help us take our mind off a stressful situation. There is a link between playing video games and well-being but important questions have been raised in the past concerning the negative effect of games on addiction and mental health. However, in 2020, research conducted by the University of Oxford found what we knew all along – that playing video games may actually improve your mental health and make you happier.
To utilise this link, and help people to manage their own well-being through the positive power of gaming, video game mental health charity, Safe In Our World, and publishers Peregrine Coast Press have released Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal.
Safe In Our World is a charity set up by a team of seasoned gaming veterans passionate about mental health and whose aims are to raise awareness of mental health within the video games industry and to provide resources, signpost help, and drive change. They want to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health, and make it a natural topic of discussion so people are not afraid to reach out for help if they need it.
As Sky Tunley-Stainton, Partnerships & Training Manager at Safe In Our World puts it, “By connecting people with the games they love, we hope Sidekick will feel like a familiar friend for folks in the games community who might be in need of the tools and information within to support their mental health.“
Thinking about mental health and taking steps to improve it can be a challenge, but Sidekick is designed to be a low-pressure way to get people thinking and engaging with self-care as part of their everyday lives. It is a compact paperback book containing 40 pages filled with video game and mental health related activities, prompts, and free journaling pages.
It is a great source of information for people to help improve their mental health with tips for dealing with stress, grounding and breathing techniques to help us relax, facts on emotional literacy and warning signs of potential burnout.
But this book isn’t just a companion – it’s a safe space to look after yourself and write what’s on your mind, to help you to keep track and reflect on your wellbeing. It’s the inclusion of pages that you can fill in to help guide you on a path to better mental health that make Sidekick such a useful resource. There are pages where you can record the top things that happened in a week (to help you see the positive things in your life), spaces to record favourite recipes for food that comfort, a table to fill in for your self-care schedule and even pages set aside for doodling. Half of the book contains pages dedicated to just that – blank pages laid out in a dot grid where you can write or draw whatever you like.
Links to video games are evident throughout Sidekick and provide something familiar to reflect on. There are pages dedicated to video games characters, whether it’s thinking about which you admire and why, or how characters in games often have to step out of their comfort zone, like the Slime Rancher moving away to a far off planet.
One memorable part of the book asks readers to consider how their journey with mental health is often similar to a roguelike, like Hades, with sometimes challenging goals that can be overcome with time and patience.
One of the most relaxing types of games are farming and life sims like My Time at Portia, and Sidekick uses these games to talk about the importance of building relationships and receiving support from friends and family.
The book invites you to get involved and features colourful, hand-drawn illustrations (the publishers are keen for us to know that there was no AI involvement in the project). This provides a friendly feel which is totally non-confrontational and welcoming.
Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal is a great companion to dip in and out of to help educate about mental well-being and is the perfect toolkit to help us navigate our sometimes stressful lives, alongside gaming of course!
Huge thanks go out to the Peregrine Coast Press team for sending us a copy of the book for review. Grab one for yourself at Peregrine Coast Press direct. It costs around £15.00.