HopeMental Health

Destiny Saved My Life From Depression

A Story of Video Games and Depression

Depression is a hard topic to discuss, and one we tend to avoid as much as we can. Who wants to examine the ins and outs of a topic that’s… well… depressing?

I know I sure do.

I have been diagnosed with major depression. No, I don’t have a card. And no, I don’t have to prove it to you. Nobody does. If someone is depressed then they are depressed. It’s hard to admit, it’s hard to say, and it’s hard to manage. And sometimes, when you start telling people, you get called an “attention whore” or a “crybaby.”

Quick side note to those of you reading this who are depressed. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel. Be depressed and let people help you. And if your friends aren’t helping you after you tell them, then they probably aren’t your friends.

The Beginning of My Depression

But I digress… I was 17 years old when my depression started. It was a mix of a high school heartbreak, hating school, and feeling like a failure that brought it on. I was in a bad place, and let that bad place guide me to a worse one. I lied to my parents (almost daily) and I lied to my girlfriend at the time. In fact, I was lying to everyone about everything.

Eventually, I got kicked out of my house and moved in with my girlfriend at the time (thank you to her and her lovely mother). I got a job at a local elementary school working in the morning care for minimum wage at under 12 hours a week. I was also doing a play at the time for a local community theater so I was up late at night, and every night I would come home and complain to my girlfriend. To make matters worse, I wasn’t sleeping and I was barely eating. You could say that I was at my lowest I’d ever been.

After my girlfriend and I broke up (it was mutual and this story has a happy ending so don’t worry), I moved back in with my parents and started working hard on making changes in my life. I got a pretty good job and I apologized to everyone I knew. Over the course of several months, I worked my butt off and made everyone in my life a priority. My girlfriend and I got back together and we eventually moved out. She and I were making enough to move out and make a living, yet I was still super depressed. It would come and go, but essentially, I was still as bad as I had always been. And then I started playing Destiny.

Enter Destiny

DestinyI had played Destiny before I moved out of my parents’ house. I played the original campaign with my friends and we had all come to the agreement that the story sucked and the grind was too hard. But it wasn’t until March of 2015, 6 months after the game was released, that I went back to the game. The Dark Below expansion had released months before and the Destiny fan base was eagerly awaiting the House of Wolves Expansion for the game. I jumped back into the world of Destiny having never done a raid and having never experienced the true grind. And I hadn’t played the game in 6 months.

Destiny (for those of you who don’t know) is a mix of an MMO first-person shooter with RPG mechanics. It was a game made by the same company that made Halo: Reach back in the day. Legendary developers, a new type of online experience, plus a lore that you could dive into for hours? It was a recipe for success. By all accounts, the game did well; it sold a lot of copies and people put a lot of time into the game; however, the review scores were not that great and, to the general public, it looked as if Bungie (the guys who made the game) had either lied or falsely advertised their game. I fit into the gang of people who didn’t like the game that much. But that all changed when I booted up the game on a whim one Wednesday morning.

PVP is a game type in most games that stands for player versus player. It’s exactly that; a game mode where you fight against other players in an arena or level to see who can either get the most kills, complete an objective first, or achieve the most points in an allotted time. In Destiny, the PVP I decided to play was called Control, a sub game type where you have to capture zones and areas to be able to gain points any time you kill another player. I started playing the week of March 9th and by the next month, I had racked up more than 150 hours just in this game mode.

There was something about the movement and shooting that felt good. Not to mention the fun weapons that you could acquire. (The Suros Regime was one of my favorite guns.) On top of the monthly events like Iron Banner (same game mode except for your armor and level matters), it was little things like the way the jumps worked and the speed at which you could aim down sights on your weapon that were extremely satisfying. But the one thing that satisfied me the most, the thing that I can definitively say that saved my life, was the sense of progression. Every single thing I did in the game from pressing the A button to log in, to moving my character to a new place on the map, gave me a sense of “I was achieving something.”

It wasn’t until halfway through April that I started playing the main events in Destiny: The Raid, Strikes, etc., but I will never forget the feeling of success it brought me. I was able to go from some dumb drop out college chump to a Guardian of the Last City, capable of destroying entire armies with a flick of my pointer finger. It was glorious.

The Aftermath

Through playing Destiny, I became closer to my friends Addison and Rowan. we eventually started playing almost nightly. Grinding out strikes to get good loot, doing the same levels over and over just to get a silly gun we would almost never use. We eventually started to call ourselves “The Dream Team”. It was a blissful time but one that didn’t last forever. However, through this, I’ve learned to cope with my depression in different ways through achieving things in real life rather than online. But whenever I get really bad, I will go back and play Destiny by myself. Get a few kills in Crucible, run a few strikes, and even attempt a raid every once in a while.

I have considered suicide many times in my life. I was a sad 17-year-old boy who hated school, myself, and theater and a lot of people involved with it. But the one thing I’ve never hated in my life is video games. I’ve always been able to go online, become someone else and play, have fun, and enjoy myself. But during the winter of 2014-2015, I was at my worst, and if I hadn’t re-discovered Destiny, I’m not sure I would be here today.

There are a lot of people out there who have it a lot worse than I do. I know there are people who have much worse depression than me and for far better reasons. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want anyone to think that there is a simple one trick solution to fix depression. My experience is my own, and I hope others can see this and maybe try something new to cope, try something again that they thought that they didn’t like, or maybe just realize that it gets better. And if you work hard, and you make a difference, you’ll meet a lot of good people who will be able to help you become happier.

It Really Does Get Better

I’ve been hosting a podcast for the past year now. I’ve got a job I really love. I have a wife, friends, and a family that I don’t need to rely on anymore. I am happy. Video games are something I care deeply about, and Destiny holds a special place in my heart. Even with all its flaws and all it’s crappy loot drops, I still love it.

I leave you, dear reader, with some advice: find something you love, and do it whenever you can. No matter how many people tell you it’s stupid and no matter how many of your friends hate it, just do it, and don’t listen to anyone, it might save your life.

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Shelby Saxton

Writer & Podcast Host Hardcore gamer at heart, Shelby loves everything from Walking Simulators to Shmups. His favorite games include but are not limited to Super Metroid, Bioshock, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Destiny. Shelby works as a game club leader and Improv coach for high schoolers.

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