Video Games as an Army Veteran & How that plays into my Mental Health

To Start:

As I thought about this subject as my first blog post in 2021 after a life-changing year and move, it became easier to write. For some reason when I think about how gaming has been a part of my life since I was a young kid my brain just explodes with memories!

Born in the early 90’s allowed me to grow up in a world where we were getting online multiplayer games and some amazing GameBoy games. But that’s a story for another time, today it’s all about how games have played a part in my life as an Army veteran and my transition into civilian life.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

Setting the Stage:

To kind of set the stage I would ask you to imagine that you have about 12 months left in the Army (or your career) and you have to start thinking about how you wanna spend your time once you’re out.

These thoughts don’t leave you even if you find something to do, but having a direction to move in definitely helps. What I decided to pursue was a career in social media and live streaming, specifically on Twitch. Tv.

Gaming as a Lifestyle:

This whole adventure is a story in itself but basically, gaming as a whole became my life. I would be gaming or talking about gaming almost 5–6 times a week for 2–3 hours at a time. I did this for 2 years or so while doing school and having a job most of this time. Hell, my first job out of the Army was as a manager at my local GameStop.

I was in it!


Even had the great privilege of going to TwitchCon in 2018. This is like a gaming/live streaming convention for those who aren’t aware. But to kind of reign it in, gaming has been a large part of my life especially from 2017–2020. Basically, up until the start of 2020, I was gaming all the time and creating ok content for our small community.

I will say I found myself having many doubts about how gaming was helping on some days but it always felt like I was moving towards this goal all while having fun with friends and community members.

The Hard Days:

When I think back to some of the hardest days I’ve had mentally dealing with all the fun thoughts of depression and anxiety (I deal with it by being sarcastic) I always smile! It may seem crazy but those days were usually made somewhat better by talking to my gaming friends about the game we were playing and just being focused on a goal that was very much achievable.

With my depression, it’s always been a thing that tries to hold me down and keep me incapacitated in thought. My biggest issue with that though is that I’m usually aware that it’s happening but to fight it off can be incredibly draining.

How it Helps:

I’ve found in my own life that gaming, especially with others, can take me from those feelings, and instead of what most people say “it’s just a temporary escape from reality” which is not completely wrong. But in my case, it takes me out of the mindset of depression to a point and allows me to reset my thoughts, out of the downward spiral.

Even when I was in the Army we had these MRT classes (Master Resilience Training)(Selva, 2021). These classes were intended to train soldiers how to be more resilient when facing circling thoughts and pretty much any depressive state you might be in. (Obviously a very blanket training program but has some good points to be made)

One of my big takeaways from that class was how to stop your mind from continuing to spiral. This is basically where you keep coming back to the original problem and even if you’re trying to think of a solution you always spiral back to the ‘failure point’.

To kind of round this all up, for me, it came down to a way to pull me out of thought loops I might be in and recenter my focus. Now, this doesn’t work all the time even for me but it’s a tool in my toolbox.

All about the Army’s MRT — Selva, J. B. (2021, May 6). Master Resilience Training (MRT) in the US Army: PowerPoint & Interview. PositivePsychology.Com.

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