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Let them game!

This lockdown sort of caught us between places. We had just rented a house in the UK, and brought over some of our belongings. We were due to travel back to Barcelona in March to get the rest of our things plus our three cats. Obviously that couldn't happen, so we're living a fairly minimalist life here. Which is fine. The only major thing we don't have with us is D's gaming computer, so, he hasn't gamed for at least two months. Given that this is a major passion of his, it's beginning to get him down.

Yesterday, he was telling me all the reasons he misses gaming, especially right now. I know gaming means a lot to him, but I hadn't really thought about all the things it brings him, particularly when real life is creating so much anxiety.

So, here's some of what he shared and which he thinks might be helpful to parents struggling with the amount of gaming their children are doing at the moment. I put the titles, but the words are all his.

Gaming helps him regulate strong emotions Stress always dies down eventually, so doing something else while it's going down is really helpful. Also, just going into a different reality where none of the family (who are probably the cause of the stress) are, really calms me down. I get to interact with different people in a different place, and that takes my mind off how I'm feeling. When I leave the computer I'm much calmer. Sometimes, the problem is that I'm really calm but the other person hasn't channeled their stress, so they're the same.

It lets him take out his stress in a safe way If I'm really cross or anxious, I can take it out in a way that doesn't hurt anyone or make the situation worse. I can play something where I can take it out on someone fictional rather than on someone in real life. It's quite good to play a villain when you're really annoyed about something.

It brings people together Multiplayer is really important right now. It brings people together from all over the world and lets them cooperate together. Online is more normal than real life at the moment. You get to meet people and do things together in a way that you can't in real life.

It helps restore his self confidence If I'm feeling down or doubting myself, I can play a game where I reinvent myself as a great person. That's not at all hard in a fictional world. I can lead battles, and do great things, and it reminds me that I'm a good person, and I feel confident again.

It's reassuring Going into a familiar online world where you know everything is really comforting. It's a path out of feeling anxious. Once, when I was really upset, I put on the VR set, went to a glacier in Patagonia on Google Earth, and just stayed there for a while until I felt better.

I did a post over a year ago with D's thoughts on gaming. You can see that here. But today was the first time he really made me think about what an incredible emotional outlet or escape it must be for many children right now. The real world is unreliable and unsafe, movement is restricted and, just like the adults, many children will need some time away from whoever they share the home with. Retreating into an exciting, but also familiar and safe, alternative reality, connecting with friends and other people, and being whoever they want to be, villain or hero, sounds like a healthy antidote to anxiety and stress. We could probably all do with a place like that to go.

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