My name is not really important for this article, but some background about me is that I’m a 22-year-old student studying game development in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was first diagnosed with depression along with general anxiety disorder when I was 12 years old. Which means I’ve been living with an official for diagnosis for almost half my life. I’ve been in love with video games since I was 8 years old but never in my life did I think they, in a way, would save my life. At least, not until I was 14. I was a freshman in high school and had recently been put in a day program after overdosing on Prozac, a commonly taken anti-depressant. Now, the first thought many people jump to upon hearing “overdose” in a situation like this is that I was trying to kill myself. I wasn’t, I was just a fucking idiot who thought more medication would magically make me better even though taking 4x the maximum dose was really just making me sick physically.
But, a few weeks later, after spending nearly a month in a day program following a traumatizing night in the ER consuming liquid charcoal, I started to feel hopeless. There were many reasons for this, and they could fill a story of their own. Needless to say any sense of hope I may have had post overdose (which, let’s be honest – wasn’t a ton) of being happy was quickly fading. But Easter was fast approaching and that meant I would finally get a game I had been coveting for about a year: Kingdom Hearts II. I said to myself in the weeks leading up to the day I’d get to play it that I just had to hang in there, at last play the sequel to a game that made me feel all the feels about a year prior. Then I could end it all. I could just give up, hang myself or something, and die with some sense of happiness – superficial as it may be.
But of course that never happened. I played the game, yes, but something in me clicked when I played it. For those unfamiliar with the plot of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, its very heavily centered around light and darkness, keys, Disney, Final Fantasy, friendship, and to an extent – hope. It’s that last thematic element that I hung onto. Throughout the game there is a pervading sense of hope in protagonist Sora’s mind that he will be reunited with his friends Kairi and Riku. It seems corny to think that this sense of hope would spark something in me – my own sense of hope – nay, EXTREMELY fucking corny, but the truth is it did. I was young, impressionable, and Kingdom Hearts was in the right place at the right time. It impressed upon me the belief that even in our darkest times there is still something we can strive towards, something we can believe in, to pull us out of it. The thought that if I hadn’t gotten that game as a gift that year from my parents, I might now be six feet under, rotting away in the ground, is kind of unsettling to me.
Really, I suppose the moral of this story is not that Kingdom Hearts is a magical game that will prevent suicide, but that games can be a powerful medium for change. Whenever you’re doubting about whether it’s worth continuing the battle with your mental illness and/or life, look for something to guide you to the proverbial light. Life is worth living. It took a silly Japanese action RPG for me to learn this, but perhaps you may find it in something more … profound.