Gaming, Mental Health

Co-operentine

Hah! Do you like that title? Punnerific, right? Because we’re all in some form of quarantine and, well, we have to do things with our loved ones now, right? Right. Well, this is a post about that and how we’re doing things.

Firstly, you’re all aware by now that I’m a family man, I have a partner and we have three children, ages ranging from 5 through to 15. This is tough, the ranges make doing a lot of activities quite difficult as either our youngest is a little too young or our eldest finds it too boring. We’ve tried not to be too forceful with the homeschooling, phasing in spelling, writing, reading and maths into general activities they can do such as gardening, cooking, sending messages to school friends via Skype (monitored, obviously) and they’re writing to one friend who lives on the route that the dog is walked on, and that’s posted through their door and they do the same in return. Mixed in with lots and lots of handwashing, PE with Joe Wicks (though as I write this an alternative may need to be found as he’s gotten into bed with The Sun) and other activities such as today they got to watch the Red Panda’s at Chester Zoo being fed via a Facebook stream.

As for the oldest, unfortunately, she has to do quite a lot of school work. She’s a GCSE student and they’ve cancelled her exams (she has the option of sitting them in September/October if the schools are back then), her school are working with the examination board and their own teachers to “give the students the grades they deserve” based upon work they’ve already done, how much they apply themselves and work that’s set for them over the next twelve weeks or so, and as her grades have slipped since her Year 10 mocks through the two sets of mocks she’s sat in Year 11, well, she needs to put in the graft to get to the grades her teachers were forecasting for her as she entered Year 11.

How is this relevant for Bar Harukiya, well, anything is relevant, that’s what meeting up at a bar is like is it not? You chat about stuff with your mates, get things off your chest, share advice, or at least that’s the way it should be if the culture over here wasn’t “let’s go and get pissed” (I’m not much of a drinker, but will drink socially as an excuse to have a good chat and a laugh).

Moving on though, how are my other half and I doing in all of this? What are we doing to stop ourselves going mad?

Well, we’ve bought second controllers for both our PS4 and our Xbox One and have been playing some “couch co-op”.

First up is we’ve spent a lot of time in Minecraft, digging holes, running away from Endermen, I often have to come to her rescue when she goes off adventuring, but mostly she’s been gathering resources and I’ve been building stuff “for her”. It started with us building a raised castle together, nicking stuff from any villages we found. Then we found a Mine, but it involved lots of jumping, climbing and swimming to get to, so I built a bridge from the castle that led to it. Said bridge now has a Redstone railway and a couple of staircases, one of which leads to our farm.

On the farm, I’ve built a couple of vegetable plots, an ornamental bridge, a greenhouse, plus a stable, an arbour, a chicken coop and a pig pen and now we’ve begun gathering the animals required to house in them. I need to build a barn for the sheep, cows and llamas too.

We’ve made a Spotify playlist that we listen to whilst playing Minecraft, its full of stuff we both know each other doesn’t mind listening to (we have fairly different tastes in music but there are some overlaps, she likes he 80’s bands like Bon Jovi plus some modern country music, I’m more of a fan of punk, metal, 90s alternative rock and grunge).

We’ve also been playing a lot of LEGO Marvel Avengers, I know a lot see them as kids games, but with Charly still physically and mentally recovering from her battle with cancer (she had her very last round of treatment this week, so at least we don’t have to worry about her attending hospital for a while), it’s a perfect game for us to just do something calming and simple that still requires a bit of communication from time to time (“I need you to be Cap” etc), plus I get to HULK SMASH on a semi-regular basis. She’s played other games in the series before, but aside from me dropping in a few times on Pirates of the Caribbean or the Harry Potter titles, this is the first one we’ve played fully co-op, she’s now asked for DC Super-Villains for her birthday, which is two weeks away has resulted in me having to change a fair few of the things I had planned to buy/do because of closures or stocking issues.

As for how I’m doing, I’m trying to find room amongst all this for reading, I’ve recently finished an Asterix book that I’ll be posting about, am grinding my way through A Feast for Crows and have a few Manga from NetGalley I plan to write about. I’m spending some quiet moments fishing in Final Fantasy XIV, though my enjoyment of that has been hampered a little as everyone seems to have suddenly started fishing thanks to the recent changes and additions to it. But on a last note, I’d like to add that despite all the above, I’m still very very stressed and very worried about the whole situation and the effect it could have on my family, and whilst the above makes it sound like I’ve got everything planned out, I most definitely haven’t and in all honesty, we do quite often just let the kids play on their tablets (though we have begun encouraging them to play games they’ll learn something from rather than just watch YouTube Kids all day long).

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Mental Health

Illness, Relationships and Self-Reflection

I’ve been writing here regularly for over a year now, but those of you who follow me may have noticed that aside from my bitparade posts, I’ve not actually uploaded anything since my The Handmaids Tale book club post, here isn’t the only thing I’ve let slip over the past few weeks, I missed two book club meets (said Handmaids Tale one and the one for volume 2 of Akira, though I did attend the meet for A Feast for Crows despite not finishing reading it). As I’ve just alluded to, my reading slipped too, likewise pretty much everything and theres a few reasons for that.

I’ll state openly that I’ve not been well for the past four weeks or whatever, part of that was a cold that took alot of my physical energy, but also, my mental and emotional health has been poor. For personal reasons I’m not going to go into depth on what the reasons for that were, there’s probably more than I can list here anyway, but I will say that at times everything in my life has seen some element of challenge over those four weeks and its taken a lot of deep, sometimes hurtful, conversation to break everything down, figure out where I’m at and work towards some conclusion, figure out where I needed to put more focus, where I was already putting too much focus, ignore some of the darker thoughts in my mind and just generally rally myself and spend more time with those I care for and love.

This has meant other things have slipped. So whilst writing Bar Harukiya over the past 12 months has been incredibly beneficial to me, both to share with you guys the things I love, but also just to occassionally get things off my chest or just to write any old thing, I’d gotten to a point where I was stressing over making sure I met the goals I’d set myself of writing regularly but also spending so much time watching the stats on the WordPress dashboard ticking up and getting upset if/when they weren’t improving in a why I deemed fit. I’d lost sight of why I wrote on here and ultimately burned out. Thats going to change, I still plan on writing as regularly as I did before, but I’m not going to force myself to write if I’m genuinely struggling for anything to actually write about.

Obviously, I’ve already said that during this period, I’d stopped doing alot of the things I was enjoying doing, and whilst part of that was due to stuff in my personal life and relationships, it was also because, like with my old bitparade site, I’d gotten myself to a point where I was doing stuff just to write about it and maybe missing just enjoying (or not as the case may be) those things for what they are.

So, here I am, back again, I’ve got a couple of posts lined up already, but the the point is that I’m not going to be putting pressure on myself to do stuff for the sake of contributing to Bar Harukiya. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but I don’t live to write, and thats the importance, even those of us who do this kind of thing for a living have to step away and find ourselves outside of what we type, and so, my focus is now on my partner and our relationship, her recovery from cancer and us finding enjoyment in each others company again after a very tough 18 months or so where maybe we both lost sight of that, and obviously our three kids who have had to go through all of this too. I’ll hopefully be offering a larger variety of content in future, especially now we can get back out into the garden and my partners physical and mental health improves to a degree that we can do stuff as a couple and as a family again.

I just hope you’ll join me on that journey, but if you don’t, don’t worry, I won’t be tracking the stats!

Mental Health

Watching Bottom in your underpants

It’s that time of year again. When this post goes live there will be a little over a week until Christmas Day, and with that comes a hell of a lot of pressure, especially for those of us who have mental health issues.

The one Big Thing, for me, is family, all you ever see and hear about is the big family get together and most people expect some kind of big bust-up that they freely admit they can do without. Now, I’m most fortunate in that growing up we didn’t have the big get-togethers and that I don’t recall anyone drinking a fuck tonne of booze, the dropping off of gifts was usually done prior to the day and everyone left each other to it. Even so, my partner and I, over the past few years, have turned our phones onto call divert so as to keep the day between the kids and us. Photos are taken and then sent to relatives on Boxing Day instead, we don’t live locally to my family so there are no random drop-ins, though we usually expect some kind of fall out on my partner’s side we do try to stay clear of things as much as possible.

Other things that cause stress is the apparent need to spend an absolute fortune, again, something we haven’t ever really done. I know of at least one person who has taken out a new credit card just to buy her daughter a load of things, including a brand new iPad (even though her current one barely gets used) just because “well, that’s just what you do, isn’t it?” No, no it isn’t.

We aren’t well off, a lot of people know our current situation, we’re both out of work as my partner was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and whilst she had a mastectomy at the start of the year, her recovery has been rather long and she keeps having setbacks such as infections in her surgery site. I’m her carer and we have three kids so there’s always a lot going on, but we make it all work. We monitor what the kids are interested in and buy accordingly, usually topping up or contributing to things they always use a lot anyway. As an example, the younger two still love My Little Pony, so they have stuff themed around that or that they can integrate into their play alongside their ponies. Our eldest is really artistic (and she’s so, so much better than I was at her age) so we try to get her some of the pricier art materials that we can’t just pick up on a whim.

We have other traditions too, we keep a box of DVD’s in the loft throughout the year, these are brought down to coincide with December 1st and are basically films we enjoy watching over the Christmas period, so my partners favourite Christmas film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is in there, whilst other films such as Die Hard, Batman (1989), The Nightmare Before Christmas and the Wallace and Gromit collection are also in this box, not all are suitable for all the family, but that gives my partner and I something to watch when everyone else has gone to bed, though we have tried getting our 15 year old to watch some of them with us, she’d rather chat to her friends on her phone as most teenagers do.

What I’m trying to say is, there’s no right way to do Christmas, do it how you want to do it, don’t allow others, be they friends, family, the media or some pre-conceived idea of what Christmas “should” be, spoil this time of year for you. If all you want to do is sit at home, in your pants and watch Bottom, then fucking go for it, no one has the right to tell you what to do with your life.

And remember, if it all becomes too much and you need someone to talk to, you can call the Samaritans on

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Mind.org.uk also have some useful contact details if you find yourself in crisis.

 

General, Mental Health, Uncategorized

The Geeky Childhood Tag

I’ll be honest, I’m struggling this week, both from a writers perspective and with my own mental health, nothing untoward has happened (though there has been a few health issues for my Dad, Brother in Law and my partners Mum in recent months), but generally speaking I’ve been lacking motivation and am feeling very tired all of the time, progress on anything I’m doing is slow and jobs around the house that I wanted to get done just aren’t. As for the writing, it’s not often I do this “Tags”, I’ve nothing against them, I just feel weird joining in on them, I’m never sure who to credit with the tag and I’m certainly always uncertain on who to nominate to join in, for a variety of reasons.

I do have some stuff for the blog in the works, but they’re either time sensitive or require for me to actually finish some of the stuff I have going in order to write about them.

Anyway, on to the tag. I found this one via A Geeky Gal though she credits A Geek Girls Guide with coming up with it. However, I’m going to take the questions from A Geeky Gal’s post as thats where I read it first.

For clarification, I’m going to be assuming “kid” means prior to turning thirteen.

Where did your geek come from? Parents? Siblings? Destiny?

Absolutely no idea, a combination of lots of things I guess. My Dad’s big into his motorbikes and motorsport, so my love of those things, though not considered geeky they have very much become a part of my blog and myself, comes from all the time we spent at circuits like Donington and Mallory as a kid, then watching various motorsports on TV at home. I don’t recall my Mum having any hobbies or interests beyond her listening to music (though that was mostly chart stuff).

As for my siblings, I was always aware that my older sister enjoyed reading, though she was eighteen by the time I turned six so I don’t have many memories of her being at home. My brother played videogames throughout his youth but wasn’t as interested in them as I were, likewise I was introduced to alot of movies at a young age that I “shouldn’t” have been due to him being much older than I was.

The First Geeky Thing You Got Into

Videogames maybe? Reading? I loved to read from a young age and videogames were always available, even if I was always a generation behind (when I weren’t sneaking on my brothers games) due to my brother or a cousin passing their old consoles down to me, so maybe retro gaming was the first thing I got into before it was even a thing? I certainly remember having both a NES and a Atari 2600 when my brother had his SNES and I got a Master System II shortly after the first of those was stolen and the latter went up in a puff of blue smoke.

Favorite TV Show as a Kid

Depends on how old we’re thinking here. I used to be obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, though Diesel gave me nightmares, then it was Thundercats and then Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (as it was called here in the UK)

Favorite Movie as a Kid

Err, again, depends on how old we’re thinking. I saw alot of films when I wasn’t necessarily ready to do so. I remember watching Mad Max on my old dial tuned black and white TV whenever it was on TV, we didn’t have a VCR on the downstairs TV at home, though my brother bought himself one when he started working and I’d watch whatever unsuitable movie he was watching whenever I could do so. I watched Terminator 2: Judgement Day when it first came out on VHS when at my sisters boyfriends house when she was taken care of us one night too (my Dad used to go to the local pub every Saturday and Sunday night for a few hours). I remember enjoying Transformers The Movie and The Nightmare Before Christmas if we’re talking about stuff thats more suited to the age range I’m discussing here.

Favorite Video Game as a Kid

For that time period? On “my” consoles it would have been Digger T. Rock on NES, Rocky on Master System and Centipede on the Atari. I also quite liked the stupidly difficult Turtles game on NES. On my brothers SNES? F-Zero.

Favorite Book as a Kid

I’m not entirely sure I had one. I read anything I could get my hands on and we visited the library an awful lot but there wasn’t anything I re-read over and over again and made an impression on me. Alot of the books I owned were given to me, like alot of my belongings, my little sister and I were the youngest kids with alot of extended family who had kids that had grown up, so bikes, Scalextric, books, games were all passed down to us.

Favorite Memory as a Kid

Holidays in Jersey or Mablethorpe, nothing from them sticks out specifically, they all kind of blur into one but we went to both places every year until I was a teenager (which is when we stopped going to Jersey and started going to Wales instead, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. I also, obviously, really enjoyed the trips out to watch the British or World Superbikes and meeting people like Ron Haslam.

A Character You Looked Up To as a Kid

I dont think I did. My heroes weren’t in fiction, not that there’s anything wrong with that, instead I idolised people like Kevin Schwantz, Carl Fogarty, Stuart Pearce and Ian Wright.

A Character That Scared You as a Kid

I’ve already mentioned Diesel from Thomas the Tank Engine, but a little later on it was Freddie Krueger from The Nightmare on Elm Street. I remember my step brother from my Mums second marriage bringing a tape over when we were both visiting our parents (I lived with my Dad, he lived with his Mum) and whilst my Mum was preparing the Sunday roast we watched Nightmare on Elm Street Part Two. I had nightmares for quite a while after, I couldn’t have been much older than eight or nine and despite watching zombie movies and things like The Lost Boys with my brother, I’d obviously never watched anything like this. My Mum didn’t think anything of it, it was just a film and we watched stuff like Total Recall, Robocop and Predator all the time. I didn’t watch a movie with Freddie Krueger in until I was 18 after that!

Well, there you have it, a bit of an insight into me, and I actually feel a little better for getting something out and onto the site and sharing myself just a tiny bit.

Gaming, Mental Health

Cult of the Company – The Outer Worlds and Edgewater

To begin with, I’m placing this under both my Gaming and Mental Health headers, the first reason is obvious as its a post about The Outer Worlds, the second is because I’m trying to look at the mindset of the people of Edge Water. I’m only a few hours into the game but will do my best to refrain from posting spoilers. For clarity I have the power regulator I need for my ship but I’ve not yet actually installed it on the ship.

Even at this early stage Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds have thrown up some food for though, most notably in the people I have met so far, and most importantly regarding the mental health of the inhabitants of the town of Edgewater. Edgewater is a community that was created by and is owned by a company called Spacers Choice and is set up in order to provide tinned “Saltuna” to colonies throughout space. It’s the first settlement that the player happens across and where you begin to interact with the games inhabitants and whilst there’s a focus on the physical health of the citizens of Edgewater, which is pretty poor due to their diet and working conditions, its the mindset of these people that is definitely where my intrigue lies.

The very first person you can talk to once you have landed in the Emerald Vale sector of Terra 2 introduces you to the motto of Spacers Choice “You’ve tried the best, now try the rest. Spacer’s Choice”, but its not until you reach Edgewater that the mindset of the people begins to show itself. This is most apparent, in my opinion, in the person who runs the Spacer’s Choice Cantina, one Amelia Kim.

Amelia works hard, after all, with how muddy it is outside the doors of her bar, its not easy keeping those floors clean. But there’s more to her than it seems, you see its very easy to get her to start talking. She wanted to be a scientist when she was younger, but it seems at some point she let go of that dream “thats the problem with dreams, you wake up” she says (I may be paraphrasing there). There’s a deadened look on her face, and questions outside of the operation of her bar seem to scare her. This pattern is repeated through the rest of Edgewater, from Silas the gravedigger through to the towns supervisor Reed Tobson, they all do as the corporation tells them and don’t ask questions regardless of the impact this has upon themselves or each other, in the belief that it is for the betterment of Edgewater as a whole.

This means that those who fall ill are quaruntined out of the way, they’re not currently working, and thus dont serve the higher purpose and so aren’t entitled to treatment (even though people work in order to make sure they receive treatment if/when they do fall ill), those who leave Edgewater, for whatever reason, are shunned as deserters, so if you’re not serving Spacer’s Choice by working in the Saltuna Cannery (or one of the more localised jobs like the towns vicar, who himself is treated with suspicion) then you don’t belong within this particular society.

It does feel like a commentary on our own work culture, how many people go in to work unwell or return too early because of the pressure from their boss not to take time off, or the social stigma from their colleagues because they’re “skyving”? Whether its our physical or mental health we return, dutifully, to work, potentially causing others to fall ill and not being able to work to the best of our abilities, all to serve (normally) a company that we’re actually a tiny part of, we prioritise of others over our own health through fear of making things more difficult for others, although its also because time off comes with financial punishment (which for some people also means they may not be able to afford the prescription charge for their medication in order to get better and return to work in a better state in the first place).

The people in Edgewater have become convinced they are a part of something, again this is reflected in the real world. How many of us have worked in jobs where the “benefits” of the job also happen to aid the company you’re working for? I’ll give you an example. I used to work as a cashier in a bank, before I started I was made an appointment with one of their staff members in order to open a current account with said bank with me ultimately switching from one high street bank to the high street bank I was becoming an employer of, my wages were then paid into this account. From talking to other members of staff these was standard practice for this particular chain of banks (though not all of them do this, I believe), and you’re led to believe that your wages have to be paid into the account you’ve now taken out with your employer. This makes you both employer and customer, it enables you to talk to other customers about the benefits of banking with your employer as you have that experience to pass on to the customer (not that they like you referring to customers as customers), but it also helps various elements of that bank beyond those conversations with its customers, it helps the banker, branch and region all meet their targets and also means that that chain of banks also has a customer that other banks may not have (especially if you only use one account or then want to take advantage of the convenience of having your current account, savings account, credit card etc all under one roof).

So, when you’re walking around Edgewater, listening to the likes of Amelia talk, ignoring her dreams and grinding out her menial job for very little benefit to herself, its very hard to ignore the feeling in the back of your mind that this isn’t healthy. Whether thats the developers intention remains to be seen and I think, for those that are also playing The Outer Worlds, you may have already clicked as to what path I took for that first big decision the creators have you make.

 

Mental Health, Music

PSYCHODRAMA – Dave

People who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that I experimented with doing a regular thing on a Friday dubbed “#NewMusicFridays”, it was a short lived experiment that I only kept up for two weeks but I never wrote off the idea of writing more under the category of music, and so we come to this week’s Sunday post, which as you may have noticed is basically me writing about anything that takes my fancy whilst the content for Tuesdays and Thursdays is fairly rigid, this is done on purpose as I spent years just writing about videogames, which I still love to do, but that time really dampened my love of the medium for quite some time.

Back on topic then, here in the UK is an award called the Mercury Prize which is awarded to the best album released in the UK by a British or Irish artist or group. It’s not something I’ve historically paid alot of attention to, I normally see the nominations and tune out when they’re performers have never really grabbed me. However, this year IDLES’ “Joy as an Act of Resistance” was nominated, which I voted my favourite record of 2018, so I was paying it a little more attention this time out.

Needless to say, IDLES didn’t win, a grime artist by the name of Dave did, now is where alot of people will tune out, but please, don’t. Let me continue.

Dave came to my attention earlier this year when he performed at Glastonbury and dragged a fan up on stage to perform a song of his called Thiago Silva, the fan was chosen because he was wearing a Paris Saint-Germain replica shirt with Silva’s name and number printed onto the back, no body expected him to do this:

Grime isn’t a genre I’ve particularly paid alot of attention to, its not that I don’t like rap music, I really like stuff from the late eighties and early nineties that I was exposed to through my brother and have been really enjoying Netflix’s “Hip Hop Evolution”. I’ve just not spent much time listening to much UK rap if I’m being honest and thats maybe a mistake on my part.

So Friday I had to go shopping, and thats the day I read that Dave had won the Mercury Prize, so I loaded up Spotify and listened to his award winning album “Psychodrama” and I can certainly see why its been so well received as its an exceptional album that, like with IDLES’ effort, is something I feel everybody should listen carefully to the message of. “Black” smashes things out of the park when it comes to educating the world on what Dave (and possibly many more individuals) feels it is to be a black man in modern Britain. It’s not an experience I can speak off with any conviction beyond seeing from the outside the experiences of a friend when I was very young man. He was in a mixed race family, his mum and sister were both white (he had a different Dad to his sister, but she was never, ever his half sister) but his Dad was absent and as the older of the two children he was often left in a position of caring for his little sister and would walk her to school every day so his Mum could earn enough to put food on the table. Every day after school (we went to different schools, he went to a church funded school, I went to the local primary) he would knock for me and we’d play football or go out in the Den or he’d push me around on my Go-Kart. But he would always be checking on the whereabouts of his younger sibling (who’s Dad was also absent I might add). Throughout “Black” I pictured him and how at 5pm every day he’d’ rush home with his sister and I’d not see him till the following day whilst at weekends he would often be helping his mum shop or be at Sunday School.

The other track I’d like to draw attention to is “Lesley (feat. Ruelle)” which at 11 minutes is a very long rap record, its not an easy listen either as it tells a properly horrible story that, to my mind, tries to raise the issue of toxic masculinity (an issue that regular readers will be aware of me trying to address and come to terms with myself) and the damage it does to everybody with the story being told from the perspective of a woman in an abusive relationship. The story being told is horrific, but the lyrical content is astounding, when it came on I was just walking along but I soon found somewhere to sit and just listen to what Dave had to say, to go any further would be to spoil the experience, but its a song I think everyone should listen to.

Mental health, masculinity and ones identity are my interpretation of the themes that Dave has tried to weave into his content on Psychodrama, that the whole album is played out with the background of being part of an appointment with the narrator’s therapist really drives that home and, much like IDLES’ record, I feel this is a record that will go down as being one of the most important in modern history. It certainly deserves to, so give it a listen, I’ve made it easy for you by sticking the whole album from Spotify below for you.

Gaming, General, Mental Health, Music, TV

Mind Games: Men, Gaming and Mental Health

I’ve been sitting on this post since around the time I started writing regularly, but its something I’ve been struggling to put together, there’s been alot of self doubt in regards to me actually writing this as I’m really, really concerned that my writing ability isn’t at a level that I feel I can do this justice. It’s a topic that I find particularly challenging.

So, a little background, I’m 35 now, I have three children, all girls, one of whom is 15. I was exactly four weeks to the day off turning 20 when she was born. Two years prior to that I was diagnosed with depression and put onto anti-depressants. Around a year after moving away from home and before my eldest daughter was born I decided I felt much better within myself, I was working and despite being young I was looking forward to becoming a Dad. I decided I was “better” and stopped taking my medication. I’ve never been particularly out going, I’ve always preferred being in my own company or with an individual than big parties and the like, so spending the next few years with just my partner, myself and our daughter, but playing on XBox Live reguarly was absolutely fine. I wasn’t well though, and the pressure of adding two more children to the mix, being made redundant twice and taking on a job where I was very much out of my comfort zone and meant alot of changes at home left me in a really dark place and things became really bad for my whole family, for which I still hold myself responsible. I had to seek help and am now back on medication, its a low dose, but its helping. I’ve started to socialise a little in recent months, its only once a month at a book club, but its just enough and once the kids are back at school I’m looking at other things I can do that will keep me healthy.

However, its very easy to close myself off, seal everything away and bottle it all up, its what my Dad’s always done so its a learnt behaviour. Thing is, this has all come back to mind in recent weeks, especially after being reminded that the world lost Chester Bennington two years ago. Now I used to love Linkin Park, I adored their first album, they weren’t my favourite band (during that era it was Feeder, but it came as a shock when the news broke about his death and the circumstances around it. Like Kurt Cobain, its easy to look back and point to their lyrics and say “oh this was them asking for help” or whatever, and its easy for people close to them to wonder if there was anything they could have done to help them, you only have to listen to Feeder’s “Comfort in Sound” and “Pushing the Senses” albums to hear the grief and torture our loved ones put themselves through after such events (for those that aren’t aware, on the back of Feeder really hitting it off with their Echo Park album plus singles Buck Rogers, Seven Days in the Sun and Just A Day, drummer Jon Lee took his own life, he tried to call Grant Nicholas, lead singer and guitarist of the band, shortly before he did so but Grant didn’t take the call and was full of guilt afterwards, something he has spoken openly about in interviews and his lyrics ever since). Its not just Chester though, look at the list of high profile suicides.  Chester Bennington, Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, Robert Enke, Keith Flint, Dave Mirra, Gary Speed, Robin Williams. Both that list and the names mentioned are only a small proportion of reported suicides, both Male and Female.

However, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. An despite campaigns from the NHS, Mind and movements like Movember, we men seem to not be doing anything about it. We still bottle things up, despite knowing better, I still do it from time to time. We still won’t talk openly about it and we still don’t do much, if at all, to look after ourselves. There’s been great movement in recent years in most people looking after their physical health in a much better manner, gyms are everywhere you look, Instagram is full of people showing off their bodies, both the Google Play and Apple App stores are chock full of free apps that are designed to get you active, and thats great, personally speaking its something that I need to do for myself. However, how many of us take the time out to really work on our mental health? When people who we think have it all, like Bennington, decide to take their own life, then building a social media profile counts for nothing when you aren’t even comfortable in your own mind. When you’re full of self doubt, its exhausting.

I mentioned up post about the book club I’m a part of, I’d be lying if I said I found it easy. The whole group are lovely, but I purposely walk the 40 minutes to each meeting with my earphones in listening to my favourite music in order to deal with my own anxiety before walking through the door of my comic shop, saying “hi” to every body and then finding the courage to voice my opinions on the book we’re discussing at that particular meeting. I have other systems in place too, although they’ve slipped in recent weeks and I’m finding getting into the habit again particularly difficult. Each night I had a handful of apps I’d work through:

Brain Yoga
Lumosity
Woebot
Daylio
Drops

I’d spend 15-20 minutes an evening working through these apps, then take the dog for a walk before taking my medication and vitamins, then getting into bed (with my phone out of reach and all the apps locked down) and reading my book. I used to be a poor sleeper but this routine has really helped over the past twelve months.

It’s not the only positive thing I want to mention here. Last summer the BBC broadcast a new TV show, it was on BBC2 and was called “Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing“. The premise of the show was that both Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse (who for those who don’t know are both comedians who were really rather famous in Britain in the 90’s) have, in recent years, had heart operations. Paul Whitehouse has always gone fishing and he decided that he’d take Bob Mortimer along with him to get him out of the house and try and stop him feeling sorry for himself. It’s literally two blokes, in some beautiful locations, fishing. But that does it a disservice (not that theres anything wrong with that as a TV show, even as a non-angler its a nice relaxing watch), because its more than the sum of its parts. The two guys talk, they talk about their operations, they joke and compete about the changes its had on their lifestyles, Bob cooks “heart-healthy” meals for the pair of them and its a show that does away with all the bravado that you would expect of these two men. To bring it to some coherent conclusion, its two men doing what two men should be doing, taking an interest in each other beyond “bants”.

You may be wondering what this all has to do with gaming, and you’d be right for wondering that. As I write, this post has become essentially what I thought it might become, a bit of a ramble about mental health, coping measures and the like. But I think I touched on gaming and mental health a little a while back in my The Toxicity of Gaming Culture and my review of Drowning.

I think gamers are awful at looking after one another and I’m not finger pointing here, we’re talking about a past time here thats so heavily focused on competing with one another that there’s that element of not showing any weakness. The absolute biggest games of most era’s are competetive, you can see it when you read stuff that alludes to gaming and gamers such as Ready Player One, we even turn single player games into a competetive environment, what with speed runs and score attacks. This isn’t everyone, I’d never say that, but its hard to ignore. When you have communities surrounding certain games that rather than passing on tips and advice you’re simply told to “Git Gud”, how is that constructive or making a community accessible to all? As a community we spent decades being told we were a certain way, then our past time becomes hugely popular and the most vocal types begin to lash out or we turn on each other, abuse each other and generally act like shit.

I regularly play Gran Turismo Sport with the same group of people, within our group there’s people of all levels, we have people who cant commit to playing as regularly and we even get people from outside our little community who get invited to join in. Everybody is friendly and even when things on track there’s something happening on track, it never develops into animosity. In fact its probably the opposite. There’s something about racing that, in my opinion, differs it to other competetive games. For the most part its all about driving your own race, focusing on your own performance, and then when you are in a battle with somebody else, having the ability and confidence to watch somebody else, learn where you’re stronger than they are and take advantage of that as cleanly as possible and as a gaming experience I find it both tiring but therapeutic. Thats not to say a Call of Duty, Street Fighter, Fortnite or FIFA player doesn’t find their experience of those games to offer them the same, if thats what works for them then thats great, and thats what this is all about.

There’s some much more I want to say on this subject, and its something I may have to return to in future posts. I still don’t feel I’ve done the subject matter the justice it deserves and I’m not entirely sure if I’ve got my message across in a manner thats actually coherent. It’s such a big subject that I’ve given it it’s own catergory which you’ll now found amongst my top menu. I think as I through my own journey with my own personal mental health I’ll be able to provide more insight into my thoughts on the matter, but for now I’ve literally scrambled my brown throwing this all down into a post thats as much for me as it is for you, and I think this is one of the few times I’ve put a large chunk of me down for others to read it.

Lastly, I’d like to say, if you are struggling with your own mental health in any way, please, please get in touch with Mind by calling them on 0300 123 3393 or texting them at 86493. For any readers in the US, if you’d like to leave a suggestion of whom to contact for help then please do so, I’ll be adding details in my side bar so they’re always visible.