“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”

–Diana Ackerman

Gamers in Therapy?

Close up of mini figures on a board game. In the foreground a monster and the background two adventures defending themselves.

In grad school I unconsciously made a list of the things I would have to protect/hide/cage in order to appear more mature, sophisticated, and intelligent in my program.

Everyone has a list. A grow the fuck up list. The list features contributions from friends, family, public figures, and culture. Then it develops into an internal hit labeled “Reasons why people discredit me” or worse- “Why I’m a screw up.”

But why did my love for gaming make its way on that list? Gaming elicits a slew of associations from people who do and don’t know games. Stereotypes abound. You likely have your own set of internalized biases regarding gaming. Calling yourself a gamer may even be a source of some discomfort. You’re not making things up here- the community can often gatekeep or decide that they’ll get to classify what type of gamer you are (casual; hardcore, etc.).

The funny thing is that gaming and play are so integrated into culture it’s hard to see the forest from the trees (think sports; drinking games; gambling, etc.). The types of gamers I often come across are folks who primarily play video games or TTRPGs (table-top role playing games). It’s often a healthy and happy part of their lives.

Common Themes for Gamers

Photo of a person using a gaming setup PC.
Gamers often have an incredible imagination. Games run the gamut in categories of enjoyment, of course. However, you like to play characters that help you to explore your sense of self. Whether that be trying on heroic traits, a new part of your gender identity, or your shadow side, you explore. Often, you get attached to the characters you play and the stories they are in because, well, they are an aspect of you.

Unfortunately, judgment from others is a big part of navigating relationships. Sometimes it’s from strangers or new coworkers that raise their eyebrows when they ask about your passions. It can be hard for you to connect to people that totally dismiss gaming. They miss out on the meaning-making; creativity; and philosophical discussions that storytelling can evoke. Other times it’s from people close to you that have believed the hype that watching Netflix is less of a waste of time.

How Can I Help?

In therapy, gaming may or may not be a big aspect of what we talk about. We may explore characters you play in your personal games as they relate to aspects of you. Your gaming group/guild may encounter conflict at times that cause challenges in communication that you want to navigate. Additionally, you may want to reflect on how you can integrate your gaming identity back into your life as a celebration versus something you keep hidden.

I also run D&D Therapy Groups if you’re interested in combining your love of roleplay games with self-exploration.

If you’re interested in connecting, you can e-mail me here.