Weekly INT Boost – Playing Through Anxiety

Photo by Sean Afnan

Welcome to our roundup of the best mental health and gaming articles you may have missed. This week, we have a closer look at Autcraft, DMing with anxiety, and a helpful video from Barbie (of all things).

Meet the dad who quit his job to run a Minecraft server for autistic kids

“Running Autcraft earns Duncan significantly less money than his former day job, but he takes donations on Paypal, sells cheap in-game perks (like bypassing the teleport cooldown), and hosts 131 backers on Patreon who contribute $1,557 a month. This is a place to play, where many kids on the spectrum make their first friends. They can interact with one another without feeling lost. It’s supposed to be the happiest place on Earth. Your average free-for-all Minecraft server isn’t much different than a middle school hallway, but Autcraft is different. It’s a refuge.”

Stuart Duncan has a mission: to give autistic kids a safe place to play a game that speaks to them. PC Gamer’s profile is a revealing look at the work he does and the power of community.

How I Tried To Escape Reality

“‘I’m fine’ is the biggest lie I’ve ever told. This truth became evident when, time and again, I fell short of achieving unrealistic personal goals, which were erroneously interpreted as ‘failure.’ When I eliminated my work-life balance as a result, burning the candle at both ends to live up to this ridiculous ideal. When I isolated myself from friends and family, convinced my energy was toxic. When my brain started feeling like a browser window with too many tabs open and life started feeling like a labyrinth of unfinished tasks.”

Writing for Fader, Julian Kimble muses on the dangers of distraction after an escapist TV binge went bad.

In case you missed it, here’s a great interview with Take This co-founder Russ Pitts from Video Game Voters Network.

Barbie reminds kids struggling with depression that they aren’t alone

“The video is powerful, not only because it normalizes discussions of mental health issues, but because its specifically aimed at young girls, who are at a much higher risk of depression than their male peers. In fact, a new study suggests that more than a third of teenage girls will experience depression by the time they’re 17. While the Barbie video may be just a small part of combating that problem, the ubiquity of Barbie as a cultural icon also gives her message a lot of power.”

BoingBoing has the story of an unexpected ally in the battle against stigma: Barbie. Even if you’re not her target demographic, the video is a good watch.

Hard Fun in Gaming: On Finding the Sweet Spot in Anxiety

“My day job is training teachers. Both novice teachers and novice DMs tend to feel debilitating anxiety about their content. The teacher fears that unless they thoroughly know the course content, their students won’t respect them. The DM fears that unless they know the rules and the world extremely well, their players won’t have fun. Actually, in both cases, being open about their current abilities matters more than being thoroughly knowledgeable. Being open makes them more authentically present. Authenticity, not expertise, is the foundation of meaningful relationships. It’s relationships that people will cherish in a classroom or around a gaming table, and remember long after.”

Anxiety, whether in the general sense or the clinical sense, makes being a Dungeon Master extra challenging. This article from PopMatters lays out an approach that accepts and works around (or within) anxiety, if you can.

With that, another week wraps up. We’ll be back on Monday with more coverage of mental health in the gaming world. Till then, take care of yourselves — and each other.

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