Weekly INT Boost – Ready for the Weekend

A quality pig.

Welcome to our roundup of the best mental health and gaming articles you might have missed. This week, we have reflections on Stardew Valley, the friends we make in fiction, and many ways to approach mental health apps.

A year in Stardew Valley: life, labour and love

“I’m eighteen years old and everybody I know is going to university. I’m not. I didn’t get the grades I wanted, so though I still could go, I wouldn’t even know where. I don’t understand how university works. Nobody in my immediate family has ever been there and hardly anyone in my extended family has either. My parents left school in their mid teens, with no qualifications at all, and I remain as confused by the process many of my peers are going through as I am by their large, embellished houses.”

Rock Paper Shotgun published this wonderful piece of writing from Paul Dean. It’s not really about mental health, and it’s also not entirely about Stardew Valley, but it’s well worth your time.

How almost-impossible video games can create euphoric moments

‘You have to feel and think your way through the darkness,’ says Paul, a Dark Souls player who experiences depression. ‘If something isn’t working, you have to try something different or you just give up. That can help a depressed person because it’s just pretty damn uplifting knowing that your skill and your intellect ultimately carried you through.’

Personally, I’ve never been good at Bloodborne or the masocore platforms I love, but the repetition is nothing compared to the joy of actually moving forward. This New Scientist article gets into the experience with some depth.

Depression strikes today’s teen girls especially hard

“Steiner-Adair urges schools to be proactive in trying to reduce teens’ feelings of being “left out” or judged. One tool, she says, might be a course in mindfulness — a form of meditation that has been shown to offer measurable health benefits and can help reduce anxiety and depression.”

Content warning: suicide mentions. NPR notes the growing case for depression screening and intervention in teens.

"How do I get outta this thing?"

If at first you don’t succeed, well, honestly, this basket seems just fine right now.

Fictional characters make ‘experiential crossings’ into real life, study finds

“Nineteen per cent of those respondents said the voices of fictional characters stayed with them even when they weren’t reading, influencing the style and tone of their thoughts – or even speaking to them directly. For some participants it was as if a character ‘had started to narrate my world,’ while others heard characters talking, or imagined them reacting to things going on in everyday life.”

While this article in The Guardian specifically suggests that novels trump games on this front, those Mass Effect and Dragon Age relationships don’t always go away when the game is off, do they?

How a mobile app will drive better mental health for cabbies

“One initial idea was to explore whether the researchers could develop a video game app that would engage drivers and help their mental health at the same time … But when she surveyed drivers on the use of their smart phones only 42 per cent said they played video games. Among drivers aged over 50, who made up 24 per cent of drivers in the survey, only 18 per cent said they played video games on their smart phones. These findings raised doubts over whether a game would generate enough take up.”

This report from the University of Melbourne serves as a great reminder that mental health tech isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Games have their place, but they’re not always the answer.

And with that, we’re off till next week. Until then, take care of yourselves — and each other.

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