Mental Health and Fighting Games: A Difficult Marriage, But They Make It Work

Dec 02 2020 4 min read
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Mental health and fighting games might look like two concepts that don't mix

The simple reality of the situation is that mental health (or lack of it) is a pretty big issue in society today. Estimates conclude that about 10% of the world's population (there's about 8 billion of us right now) is affected by mental illness. Even worse, the estimates also posit that about 20% of adolescents suffer from some sort of mental illness or the other.

Therefore, it is not uncommon to find someone talking about their mental health and how they struggle with it in one way or the other. But, before we go any further, what is mental health?

The simplest definition of this term is the emotional, social, and psychological well-being of an individual. So, when one of these spheres of existence is compromised, it could cause a deterioration in one's mental health and lead to an illness. There have been several studies on what could be the major causes of mental health problems, but it isn't easy to pinpoint. The best guess is that it is a combination of factors coupled with the alteration of brain chemistry that leads to the deterioration of mental health.

But how do fighting games come into all this? Fighting games are a much smaller fraction of the entire gaming ecosystem and is comprised of some of the most interesting set of people you could come across. The Fighting Game Community is a hard one to define as they are made up of small tribes that specialize in various games that don't necessarily have anything to do with each other. For instance, the Street Fighter crew more often than not stick with Street Fighter. Same with the NRS community and even the Smash community. But somehow, the FGC has become this amalgamation of various elements that come together to form a larger group. That said, the FGC shares enough common traits that enable them to support each other and work together as a community.

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An unlikely romance

Mental health and fighting games are something of a weird marriage. Many people within the FGC have one mental health problem or the other, and their involvement in fighting games seems pretty weird. I mean, if the two concepts were to be characterized as humans, mental health will be the moody kid that wears a beanie to school every day and listens to emo all the time while fighting games are the bright, zippy girl that loves a challenge and is fiercely competitive. Under normal circumstances, this is a couple that won't work, but for some reason, they do.

Fighting games and mental health

While speaking to LetCindersBurn, he intimated that one reason he stayed away from playing competitively was the pressure that came with it and how defeat in such situations made him feel. This year has seen many FGC members announce breaks in a bid to take care of their mental health. With stories like these, you could assume that perhaps the fighting games aren't great for mental health, but there have also been several stories in which people have talked about how the drive to improve in the game has helped boost mental health.

There is even research that shows that action games can help reduce instances of rumination, which is a huge predictor of depression and improve objective cognition in people. This means that focus on the game, having a goal to improve, and communing with people who share your passions and goals could be a huge boost to mental health and improve a person's well-being.

There are also other things that can be learned from fighting games, including persistence, patience, and pattern recognition. However, I believe the biggest star in this situation is the community. Because there are so many people in the community who have various health conditions and are more open about it, this has helped reduce the stigma around mental health. Huge influencers like @nogoodcitizen have been brutally honest about their struggles, and this has, in turn, helped other people who might have been having problems.


This is not to ignore the more toxic aspects of the community, but the encouraging this is that the FGC is evolving, and what we are witnessing is a group of people learning and unlearning while identifying warning signs and helping out their fellow human beings.


So, while mental health and fighting games are not a match made in heaven, they are able to make it work through support, goodwill, and perseverance. If you are going through a difficult time, never be afraid to reach out, and while it might seem like something people say all the time, but there really are a lot of people out there willing to help and listen when you need someone to hear you out.


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