I am a few months shy of 21 years old. I am a college student. I have signed a lease on a house and do laundry and write checks and have heard middle school kids refer to me as "old." I am a full-fledged adult, and yet, half of my desktop looks like this:
Yes. You're seeing that right. 10 "The Sims" icons. 10. Sims is a game rated E for everyone but is geared toward pre-teens. I started playing when I was in fourth grade, shortly after Sims 2 was released. I stopped playing by the time I was in high school and didn't think about it again until my freshman year of college. A new friend of mine in the same dormitory as me still played and loved the game. At first, I started playing simply as a trip down memory lane, but I discovered something amazing: playing Sims greatly reduced my levels of anxiety.
In recent years, record numbers of college students have been seeking help for mental illnesses. Stress about homework, friendships, family, relationships and future plans on top of the difficulties that come with the past two decades or so of existence is more than heavy enough to induce some form of anxiety, depression and/or related disorder. Personally, I have spent the past two years struggling with PTSD, major depression, generalized anxiety and panic disorder. I also know that at least half my friends on campus are battling one or more type of mental illness, too. Unsteady mental health affects so many people who I know and love, and so few of us are able to cope effectively. As helpful as medication and therapy are, there is a lot of work that has to be done as an individual just to make it through the day.
For me, that daily effort includes playing games meant for children.
It started with The Sims. Recently, I have also been playing assorted games on my phone and Pokemon. Anything that can be labelled as casual, sandbox, turn-by-turn based and/or has little to no violence could have the same soothing result. The tagline for The Sims 4, "You create. You control. You rule," in itself is encouraging.
Having the ability, in a virtual way, to feel a semblance of freedom to be creative, power over outcomes and influence in decisions is exceptionally comforting when you often feel trapped, helpless and inconsequential. In The Sims, you get to choose what you look like and what your personality traits are and what your career is and you are under no obligation to be anything like your physical self. You can be anything. The uncomplicated gameplay of The Sims brings simplicity to an otherwise complicated life. The straightforward goals with clearly defined benchmarks bring a sense of accomplishment and provide rewards for even small successes.
Friendship and romance and skill-building are easy; a little green bar fills up as you just point and click. Any time you need a break, you can simply save the game and close the program. If things get messy, you can opt not to save and force-quit the software and start fresh the next time you open it. You can delete entire characters and begin again with someone new. The are no limitations and no time constraints. You can even bring sims back from the dead.
Everything that is out of control in human life is at your fingertips in The Sims. Spending a little time playing this game and worrying about your sim's small problems like a broken blender or a need to go to the bathroom is a lot easier to manage than the troubles that surround you in reality. Just 30 minutes of The Sims and I feel more confident, more calm, more ready to take on my day.
So yes, I am a full-fledged adult who still plays children's games. Maybe you should try it, too.