How To Deal With Stress While Playing A Game

For the most part I believe that games are capable of reducing our stress, but every so often we get stuck on a challenge that has the opposite affect on us. A game shouldn’t be ruined by stress and I’ve found a number of different ways for dealing with it.

  • Change the difficulty setting – If we’re feeling stressed it could be a sign that the difficulty setting is too high for our current expertise. A game feels best when it’s at the right level, not so easy that it gets boring but not so hard that it’s stressful. Adjust the difficulty to work for you (see ‘Enjoy The Experience The Way You Want To.‘) If the game doesn’t allow you to do that then consider going back to an easier area to improve.
  • Look for other things to do – Sometimes a game is too hard because we’re not yet meant to be there. Consider if you have done everything you could have before this point and head back to complete them first.
  • Remember that games are made to be completed – Most developers want you to be able to complete their games. They’ve made lots of wonderful content after that part you’re stuck on and want you to see it. I trust a lot of developers to have made the game fair and possible to complete in some way.
  • Remind yourself of previous achievements – Can you remember a time when you felt like you were never going to make it through a game just to prove yourself wrong? If you’ve made it through a tough part before you can do it again.
  • Get Stronger – If you’re playing a game in which the character can be made stronger than you can always head back to grind a few levels first as another way to adjust the difficulty for yourself. If not then think of yourself as improving. Make sure you fully understand how to play the game and practice. During each attempt you’ll be moving a little bit closer towards succeeding.
  • Put it into perspective – If a game carries a harsh death penalty, like having to repeat a section over, I treat this as a further opportunity to practice and get better. I also remind myself that if I could get so far in the first place I can probably do it again. It’s worth putting a loss into perspective – is it really so bad? My worse moment was in Tibia, where dying can destroy hours of experience. If we keep playing we eventually earn that back and then some, at which point what we lost feels like a small drop in the ocean compared to what we currently have. These types of wounds heal with time.
  • Consider all options – Some games allow for multiple strategies to get through something. So long as I haven’t yet tried everything there is still hope that I’ll find something that’ll work. It might also be the case that I haven’t set my character up correctly for what works for me. If all else fails look up tips for how others have gotten through.
  • Too much stress will make it harder – While a little bit of stress can improve our performance, too much can result in clumsy mistakes. I’ve had gaming sessions where I’ve gotten worse on each attempt as a result of stress and fatigue. It’s worth remembering that staying calm will help and we can achieve this in a number of ways, like taking deep breaths for example. It might also be a sign that we’re ready to take a break and will do much better next time.
  • Make jokes – I get through a lot of gaming experiences by making jokes and taunting my foes. It can also be a release to yell at the screen and far better than taking it out on your gaming equipment.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself – Some of my most memorable gaming moments are the times when it went wrong. I’ve made my fair share of silly mistakes that resulted in heavy losses (like rolling off a cliff in Dark Souls), but I can turn it into a funny story and laugh it off. I think a lot of stress caused by competitive gaming can come from bruised egos, but try not to take it personally.
  • Pause for a moment – Pause the game and give yourself a moment to breathe and calm down. I use loading screens as a way to regain my composure too.
  • Play with others – I sometimes find that playing with another in the room can help. For starters they can offer advice and moral support. I can also share my woes or talk to them, taking some of the focus away from what’s happening in the game. I guess I also prefer to keep my cool when I’m around others. Oddly enough though, whenever I try to show another person what I’m trying to overcome I seem to succeed at it, making it seem as if there wasn’t a problem afterall.
  • Without the challenge it wouldn’t be fun – Some games are more fun without the difficulty, but others are the exact opposite. For example, in Don’t Starve you can modify the world to generate with more resources, but it’s far less interesting to play it that way. A part of the enjoyment of that game is learning how to do it well. Unfortunately the stress of managing dropping hunger and sanity levels is just something we have to deal with, but it’s worth the satisfaction once we’ve mastered it. Remind yourself how worthwhile it’ll feel to achieve success against much lower odds. Besides, we don’t want to complete the game too quickly because then we’ll have nothing left to play.
  • Punch the air or jump around – Sometimes I get a build up of adrenaline while playing and it has nowhere to go. Getting up from your seat to move around a little can be a release – or sometimes I actually dance in front of my computer.
  • Perseverance is a good thing to have – Life is tough and throws curveballs at all of us from time to time. We can either choose to give up or fight back. Like Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) says, “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” At the card game shop they told me that if all we ever do is play with the same friends we can never truly tell how good we are. They recommended attending the tournaments, but warned us that we’d probably fail really badly, but that it would be the only way to get better. We can be proud of ourselves not for succeeding instantly at everything, but for giving things a go, trying out best and sticking it through until achieving mastery. You can learn more from failure anyway.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

6 responses to “How To Deal With Stress While Playing A Game”

  1. Aura Eadon says :

    Ultimately it depends on the reason one plays and whether the designers cater for all types of gamers or just “hard-core” gamers. I have played games where the designer made me so stressed and frustrated, not only I had to rage-quit but also put the company on a “never to buy again” black list.

    Imagine this: you’ve spent over sixty hours on your RPG, levelling up your character(s), gathering items, whatever. You are over 90% complete. You care about the story and the characters. You reach a boss. All the bosses up to that point were okay for the difficulty setting. That one boss is hard. Absurdly hard. There are two reasons why game companies do that. One is they try artificially to increase the play time. They gamble on the fact that you are invested and you will persevere. The second reason has to do with how rushed the game was or how inexperienced and/or cocky the designer was. Also with whether they used QA in the correct way or not.

    No matter the reason, in my books the worst companies and designers are the ones who lock players out of their game, targeting only hard-core gamers. See perma-death and other such instruments. Stupidly hard bosses, areas where you either have split second reflexes or you are doomed, or trying to make a game of a different type (a standard RPG that is NOT a platform game, and yet you need to be pixel perfect in jumps that are not helped by the game mechanics). The list is not conclusive.

    Ultimately, I have one rule when it comes to choosing games to play. The game has to have a “casual gamer” friendly difficulty and a story. Anything else is a waste of (my) time. I care not for competitiveness or bragging rights. A good story oriented game is like a book. I want to see the end no matter what. A game that is preventing me from doing that is the equivalent of an author reaching 90% of the book and telling you that you must pay them extra if you want to see the end. In my case, there is a “rage” moment, followed by a “fuck it” moment, followed by a “you are now blacklisted” moment. And thus, I regain my composure and calmness. 😀

    • wallcat says :

      Hehe, making a blacklist sounds like a good idea. I have favourite developers who I trust to be fair, but I avoid games that feel like they’ve been created to keep you from the ending on purpose. I have a rule where I expect the main part of the game to be possible to complete by everyone, but it’s ok to have slightly harder optional areas and bonus content for anybody who wants more. I absolutely agree that in a story heavy game it’s not great for somebody to be locked out of seeing the ending because it asks too much of them. I think I’ve looked up a few endings before because I didn’t enjoy the task required to reach them but was invested in the story. I don’t think a game has to appeal to everybody though, but it does have to be made clear early on what is to be expected of the player so that they don’t end up disappointed. Accessibility is really important, but trying to appeal to too many people can also result in experiences that are jack of all trades. Trying to do something more specialized or focussing on a specific audience will unfortunately risk alienating a few people.

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