In my life the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I’m not alone.
Gaming has always been a part of my life…
Being born in the late 80’s I grew up with video games. My youth was spent playing text games, point-and-click adventures, platformers and puzzle games that were forming the backbone of the gaming industry at the time. Some of my earliest memories were singing along to Mixed Up Mother Goose on our 286 PC; becoming part of the story in a far more involved way than when I was reading Dr Seuss books or fairy tales.
…as were mental health issues.
As a child I was never particularly social or outgoing. We moved around a lot, I was awkward, and rarely connected with other kids. In hindsight it’s pretty obvious that my social anxiety developed early on and never really improved. I felt like no-one understood me and that I never fit in. So it was easy for me to fall into different worlds that came on stacks of floppy discs (or even early CDs); interact with characters, and be part of stories that were if not perfect were at least something controlled and non-judgmental of who I was.
Skip forward a couple of decades and a lifetime of gaming and mental health issues. I’ve still got the same social anxieties, except now I know them for what they are. I could identify what I should be playing to give me the emotional response I need. But I still felt alone. It’s easy to feel by yourself when most of your interactions are with characters on a screen. And one day I went to my first PAX Australia. I was nervous as it was the biggest convention I’d been to and dealing with people was still a problem. So I turned up to a couple of panels about Mental Health in gaming, one of them hosted by CheckPoint.
All of a sudden it clicked that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one dealing with depression and anxiety, hiding in video game worlds of my own choosing. There was an entire world of people out there who had stories to tell. People like me.
CheckPoint is an organisation that focuses on promoting positive mental health practices in the gaming industry, helping people find the resources they need to better deal with the issues faced by themselves or people they care about, changing the industry itself to reduce the stigma of mental health and promote better care of developers, and developing positive gaming communities. In fact they even created a web-series all about what they do which is up on YouTube.
After many years of dealing with my own mental health issues, with greater or lesser success, it became apparent to me that with so many people out there with similar situations to what I grew up with, and were still going through, that it was important for each of us that are in a position to help to at least try.
So that is why I care about Checkpoint. It’s why I will always raise my hand to volunteer at events they are present at. Why I stream to raise money for their cause. Why I help in their GamerMates community. Why I give so heavy when the hat is passed.
Because when it comes down to it, a lot of us feel alone. A lot of us feel like life is not okay, a lot of us need somewhere to go to feel safe. And that is what CheckPoint does.
That is why I care.