How Video Games Help Me Endure the Winter Blues #GeekLeap

Who amongst us is prepared to depart the home within the lifeless of winter? For those who can, I applaud you. However for many people who dwell nearer to the Arctic Circle than the Tropic of Most cancers, late fall to early spring is designated the “indoor a part of the yr.” 

Not solely is it darkish and chilly, but it surely typically makes us depressing too. I dwell in Edinburgh and I am keen on this spooky, gothic metropolis, however winters in Scotland should not for the faint-hearted. 

In late December, there are lower than seven hours of daylight a day, and even then it is typically so dreary that I eat my lunch by lamplight. As winter plods on into the murky months of January and February, I sense the chilly creeping into my bones and organising store. It takes all my vitality to withstand the fatigue and listlessness that I can really feel cajoling me into powering down my physique and thoughts, persuading me I can afford to function on standby mode till April.

The older I get, the extra delicate I appear to develop into to each seasonal fluctuation in my setting. I do all that is inside my energy to fight this — I train, take the strongest vitamin D dietary supplements I can get my arms on, finetune my weight-reduction plan and switch my face towards the solar at each alternative. It is sufficient to maintain me functioning, if not precisely thriving.

However this yr, I’ve a brand new weapon at my disposal: an consciousness that the aesthetic expertise of taking part in cozy video games actually helps take the sting off my winter blues. This more and more in style gaming subgenre for essentially the most half combines cute characters with open-world, aesthetically pleasing environments and varied gathering, rising, nurturing, exploration or inventive duties to create a utopian gaming expertise that is excellent for pacifists.

Like thousands and thousands of others locked down through the pandemic, I first found the consolation of cozy video games in 2020. I sank all my non-working hours into taking part in Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Change.

I am not alone to find serenity within the placid, peril-free worlds of cozy video games, but it surely took me extra time than you would possibly count on to comprehend that I used to be utilizing them as what the web (and doubtless a therapist) would possibly dub as a coping mechanism. Throughout lockdown they have been a handy substitute for socializing and being outdoors. Now, when lockdown is over however SAD season is upon us, it replaces daylight and… being outdoors.

There is no sweeter gaming expertise than A Brief Hike.


A Brief Hike

I solely understood the total extent of the impression of cozy video games on my psychological wellbeing after sinking a number of months on the tail finish of 2022 into Disney’s Dreamlight Valley, a life sim that — regardless of the limitless fetch quests, frequent bugs, lack of updates and uncanny similarities to Animal Crossing — I persist in taking part in. 

My misgivings in regards to the sport and the way I am selecting to spend my treasured hours left on this Earth apart, time spent in sunny, jolly Dreamlight Valley genuinely buoys my temper. And I am not even a “Disney grownup.” I’ve observed, although, that each time the climate within the sport shifts and the sky darkens, I instantly develop into indignant and morose.

“Why is it raining?” I complained to my husband on a couple of event. “I play this sport to flee the rain, to not endure extra of it.”

Because the Christmas break approached, I felt an awesome want to spend my day off replaying the sport Lake, which I first performed final summer time on Xbox Sport Go. I am aware of the seasonal tug towards particular cultural phenomena, primarily from my annual fall rewatch of Gilmore Ladies, however this one was new for me.

In Lake, you play as a younger lady who returns from her huge metropolis company job to her small hometown within the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks to cowl her father’s mail supply job whereas her mother and father make a journey. Day by day, you get up, accumulate your mail from the put up workplace and drive across the lake the place the city is located ensuring folks get their letters and parcels. 

A mail van driving past a lake.

What a wonderful day to ship some mail.


WhiteThorn Video games

On the finish of the 2 weeks, as you have begun to attach (or in some circumstances reconnect) with the townsfolk, you must resolve between staying on in your dad’s job and returning to the rat race, successfully providing you with the choice to affix the good resignation in sport type. A romantic subplot may additionally sway your determination, in addition to giving it the texture of a Netflix Christmas rom-com.

This most mild of gaming experiences is not for everybody, however the best way the sport compelled me to decelerate and spend time pootling by way of the forest in my van, watching the altering gentle over the eponymous lake, felt deeply meditative. In reality, it mirrored the sentiments of contentment and tranquility I get once I head out into the forests and glens of Scotland virtually each single weekend.

Because the winter attracts in, these expeditions into the wilderness are likely to fall by the wayside in favor of staying inside underneath a blanket. However the pull of the feelings I expertise by standing quietly beneath a giant sky would not simply vanish. On this regard, it makes excellent sense to me that whereas I used to be curled up on my couch feeling melancholy in regards to the climate, the factor I needed to do most of all was to tumble again into the world of Lake. 

Sadly, because it had since left Gamepass, I felt compelled to resort to different choices. I plumped for A Brief Hike, a captivating open-world exploration sport on Nintendo Change the place you play as just a little chook who hikes up a mountain earlier than hovering again down on the wind. I performed it by way of one early January weekend, absorbing the sweetness of the story and pleasure of exploring the panorama, earlier than feeling it carry me by way of the next week.

Since then, I’ve develop into immersed on the earth of Stardew Valley. Although I used to be quite put out to seek out myself geared up with a sword for swatting bugs — not precisely within the spirit of cozy video games — I have been swept up in watching the seasons change all through my bucolic farming life.

I do know because the seasons change for actual and I emerge from the fog of winter, these video games will in all probability fall by the wayside in favor of real outside pursuits. However I am additionally comforted by the data they’re going to be ready for me the following time the clocks return in October. When the world appears miserable and grim, they’re going to be there to supply me with just a little solace, making these darkish, chilly months really feel rather less scary and just a little extra bearable.

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