Cyber-psychologist Berni Goode talking about Flow on Charlie Brooker’s How Videogames Changed the World.

Flow is extremely important. So, so important.

It’s what keeps some people sane. It’s what drives the world’s most skilled and accomplished athletes, the most intense gamers, the hardcore hobbyists, even many of the most talented artists, musicians and actors – flow is what you get when unstoppable drive meets an unflinching will and unlimited dedication.

Flow is being utterly, truly “in the zone”. And it’s one of the most amazing feelings there is. 

This is why finding a sport, or a hobby, or a martial art, or a handicraft, or a new video game, or any skill-based activity that uses focus and requires practice and repetition is so beneficial for things like depression and anxiety and overall mental/physical well-being.

I find it very interesting and relevant to me that Tetris specifically is mentioned, because even though my depression at the time was not low level at all, at my worst I played tetris for up to 6 hours a day. Other games played a similar role. Video games probably saved my life.

Somehow I think that a lot of us with mental health issues know about this, and that’s why we do what we do. (At the very least, I play video games because I feel less shitty when I’m single-handedly depopulating Hyrule.)

I look at it as a simple reward system. When we feel shitty, the problems we might have can seem really overwhelming. Playing video games, or taking part in skill-based hobbies, is a way to sort of swap your problems out for ones that you can handle. Single-handedly depopulating Hyrule? Awesome, that can be done. You get a reward (in your brain) for every kill you make. Knitting, you get a small reward every row you complete, and a huge one when you finish a project. And the rewards get better as you get better at what you’re doing.

It’s giving your brain something it CAN do for a while. It might be challenging, but it’s not insurmountable. It’s another form of escapism, actually. And I highly approve.

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