How to tackle game anxiety 

Ever have anxiety while playing video games? You’re not alone. Many people find video games anxiety inducing even when they’re desperately trying to relax. Anxiety disorders account for the most common mental health issue in the United States with 40 million adults according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Game anxiety doesn’t have numbers behind it right now because it is a fairly new condition.


Daniel Epstein, licensed professional counselor and licensed mental health counselor at The Berman Center, identifies gaming anxiety by another name “Internet Gaming Disorder.” It is not a formal diagnosis or disorder, but it is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. And one of the defining features includes the “… inability to separate oneself from gaming for an extended period.”


As such when it comes to anxiety and the ways it can affect someone’s life, it can be just about anything. Licensed psychotherapist and author of the Ultimate Anxiety Toolkit, Risa Williams said “anxiety comes in many forms, but often involves repetitive negative thoughts that are hard to soothe. Game anxiety can include repetitive thought loops, especially about things we can’t complete in the game.”


Constant repetitive thoughts and loops can come at a cost to your productivity, happiness and health. Gaming anxiety affects people everywhere and can show up as symptoms like “headaches, palpitations, abdominal pain and paresthesia” as well as feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem Leela R. Magavi, psychiatrist and regional medical director of Community Psychiatry said. What game anxiety and general anxiety does is “feed off each other and are someone related. People with anxiety disorders particularly social phobias often tend to cope by playing video games …” Rashmi Parmar, Psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry said.


Game anxiety is more than feeling disappointed that you couldn’t complete something in a game, it can also “show itself unwillingness to play a different game ‘until I clear this,’ Yonatan Sobin, The Nerd Therapist said. “In more depth, it's a bit of a fading interest in the experience of gaming, and often, getting physically anxious when you can't complete a particular task or achievement in a game, and finding oneself frustrated and unable to ‘get into the flow’ of the game.”


So, what do you do? Give up on video games for good? Not necessarily. There are ways to strategize and learn to enjoy video games so that they’re no longer an issue and there are five mental health professionals who can help gamers tackle game anxiety.


Set smaller, healthier goals


While it can be hard to do, creating goals before playing a game or thinking of small tasks you want to accomplish can reduce your anxiety. Williams said, “When we’re just trying to complete levels or big achievements, it can be tempting to just keep going after you’ve achieved them.” This is a reason why creating smaller goals with a time limit can help you feel relaxed because most games are becoming increasingly achievement based, so there is a feeling that you never really “finished them.” While this certainly provides replay value for some gamers, for those who deal with anxiety, it can hinder any form of happiness playing a game, even simple simulation games.


To reduce the need to complete everything, Williams suggests redirecting your focus toward other activities that can provide “brain rewards,” and “try to plan fun rewards for yourself for completing goals outside of the game to help you feel motivated.”


Refocus your energy elsewhere


Another approach is finding something calming to do before and after gameplay. It can be anything that you’ve used before to reduce stress. Magavi, advises that gamers to listen to their favorite song in tandem with taking “several deep breathes to slow down their respiratory rate and prevent panic.” Whenever you happen to observe a change in mood or breathing, taking a break to practice breathing or exercising can relieve gamers of anxiety. Gamers can also share those experiences with other gamers to help manage their feelings.


It’s also suggested that gamers learn to “laugh at your mistakes or graciously accept defeat or failure, after all, anyone could be having a bad day … avoid the urge of reminiscing over what went wrong unless you are using it in a positive way to perform better next time,” Parmar said.


The primary goal is having fun so when you’re playing a game try to avoid “being drawn into the quest” for control. Instead, Parmar finds reminding yourself that you’ll have fun no matter the outcome will refocus your energy.


Build community and play what you enjoy


“Game developers want players engaged for as long and as intently as possible,” Sobin said. The ‘dopamine-hits’ are what makes you feel accomplished when you’re playing a game and it’s what keeps you going. Sobin’s tactics for reducing anxiety is to lean into social communication and build a community to play games with. Rather than focus on solo-play, teamwork and cooperation can counteract the negative effects of solo gaming.

It is also important to “play the games you want to play,” Sobin said. When you’re playing a game, be mindful and listen to yourself. If you feel bored with a game, listen to that feeling. When you’re collecting trophies and items, enjoy it, but remember to enjoy life outside of gaming. With balance in your life, you want to use video games as a reward for completing other things you need to do, rather than an escape. “It's natural for us to think ‘I suck’ or ‘I'm the worst’ after failing the same situation 10 or 15 times in a row, but that's (most likely) not true … game anxiety results from a rigid set of rules.”


Try watching games instead and seek out a licensed professional


When you’ve quit a game and you have a nagging feeling that continues to affect you this is what Epstein calls “game shame,” or a “feeling of lowered self-worth due to negative self-talk comments by others.” Not every game feels game shame and it is solely determined by the gamer and circumstance. Since some personalities feel the need to complete a task, while others are concerned about how they’ll be seen by their peers. This can increase your anxiety and one way to deal with this is simple.


Epstein said “… For many, watching others play can actually bring someone’s stress levels down, provide entertainment, as well as help them learn new skills. The lowered stress associated with observing gameplay can in large part be attributed to having no risk of failure.” So, trying to watch other people play can help.


But at the end of the day, there is nothing better than seeking help from licensed professionals when you’re living with game anxiety. If you’re experiencing anxiety, going to see a professional is always the best route. “Chances are you’re experiencing anxiety in real life. If you are living with anxiety or any emotional struggles, go see a professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment if needed.”


Where do you go from here?


While there is no one way to tackle game anxiety, just knowing that you have options to manage your life is empowering. Whether you decide to take it easy, channel your feelings elsewhere or even reach out for assistance, your feelings and anxiety around gaming are valid.

The Business of Sims 4 Content Creation in the Simulation Gaming Industry 

So how do you make custom content? It’s by learning the tools of the trade you will have to master to design clothing, hair, accessories and more. This matters because Black gamers deserve to see themselves in games and Black creators are taking this head-on by supplying the demand.

The Sims 4 Studio is a free tool to make custom content that works within the Sims 4 world. This tool can also be used to revamp EA-made content to recolor it and more. Then there is Blender, open software that allows users to create, render and simulate 3D content. This is where content from Sims 4 studio is imported for further design.

Finally, Photoshop is used for retouches for a perfectly developed background, to merge images, or even smooth out the sim-like imperfections of clothing and body parts. All these steps make Sims appealing to people who desire lifelike Sims.

During the creation process, an original 3D copy of data called a mesh is used. You can think of a mesh as the building block, outline or skeleton that holds everything together. Using premade meshes as a creator means you are building off an original file and making it your own with textures. If a creator isn’t using a premade mesh from Sims 4 Studio, then they can create one themselves. 

The reason why custom content matters in gaming and specifically the Sims 4 is that what’s created by EA, the publisher of the game is white-centered. Though there are aspects of the game that tries to focus on diversity, it’s hit or miss. For example, the developers released dark skin tones and they weren’t at the level of what many would say is a true representation of Black skin. It wasn’t diverse and it was dull. Eventually, developers partnered with Sims influencers to work on it, but the diversity in the Sims 4 is usually pushed by fans.

So, creators instead take things into their own hands and computers to make the content they want to see.

Jadin F. 17, also known as a popular Sims 4 hair designer Brandy Sims explains his process as such “So I will go to Sims Studio, it has the power to make the CC. [If I am making glasses] I'll get the glasses and you can do alpha meshes. I will export the glasses and get on Blender...And [when I’m making hair] I'll use the Bezier, and the Bezier is, like, mostly what people use that to make braids,” Jadin F. said. 

The Bezier tool in Blender creates curved lines that help develop realistic shapes for hair. His reference point with his hair design comes from Instagram and from there he uses geometric tools to fine-tune is his work. A major reason why his work in hair design matters is that Sims 4 is lacking when it comes to Black hair design. It doesn’t look true to life and Jadin spends his time creating styles that other Black players would love.

But Sims 4 doesn’t make the content creation process easy according to Krissten Faggins, 24, also known as CoCoGames creates accessories for gamers.

“With very, very basic meshes, you know sometimes you started off with nothing and you're literally just creating it out of shapes and boxes and things like that,” she said. “For me if it's something like clothing, it is easy for me, but you know if it's something really complex…one outfit alone can take like five hours. A whole collection, it could take you a whole week.”

The challenge of creating custom content when you’re only one person and not an entire team like Sims 4, is that you are often starting from scratch. You may have an idea but there isn’t a team of people behind you to get the process going. So, it takes some time to make these items simply behind the screen of your computer.

It’s with their ingenuity that they can create such a buzz in the Sims 4 community. But it wasn’t until these creators started to go viral and gain some attention from people that they all realized that the work they create individually is worth it and adds value to other content in the game.

“The day that I realized I was good at content creation was actually when my first piece of cc blew up like, it went viral like, over Tumblr, it went viral The Black Simmer. I saw so many big, you know, semi-YouTubers using it. And people commented, oh, where'd you get this hair from? Who made that hair? Or can you link me to the hair, and it would always link back to me, and I just felt so happy and grateful. And then from then on, I was like, you know what, this is something that I want to do,” Jeremy Nada, 18 said.

The virality of content creation has always happened across several platforms and Tumblr isn’t the only space where this occurs, as Instagram is also a space where creators get noticed.

“I think when people started tagging me on Instagram, and I started seeing my stuff, where I'm like, Oh, wait, this might be something,” Faggins said. The leverage Instagram has on the way creators gain visibility or find ideas cannot be understated.

One of the veteran Sims 4 creators, Danielle Udogaranya, also known as Ebonix has a lot to say about the newer generation of creators and their influences.

“So, I think there are various styles that younger creators are influenced by, but I think the biggest forum of influence comes from Instagram! There are a lot of styles and fashion that I've seen that they are making, and it's really cool to see the culture shine through,” Udogaranya said. “It's different from when I started mainly because Instagram wasn't that big of a deal for sims fashion 5 years ago, and I've always focused on creating more natural styles.”

The process of content creation isn’t too difficult once you know the tools necessary to achieve the desired results. It does take some practice, but once a creator gets the hang of the design process, how fast it can go depends on whether it is an original design, a requested design or a design based on popular culture trends. Each one has its own timeline. But in total, all three creators — take an average of four days to make content. 

While all these custom creators lean toward the urban aesthetic that’s been popular among Black people forever (and non-Black people who love our culture too) they all stay true to their own inspiration.

Jadin F. typically receives commissions for his work through his Patreon a place where people create membership tiers for any sort of content. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t create what he wants, but if there’s enough interest elsewhere, he’ll spend his time focusing on that.

This is like Nada’s experience, but he also makes sure that when he’s in the creation stage that he isn’t recreating what’s already been made. It can take quite a bit out of you when something you’re working on is released by someone else.

But that is what happens when everyone’s making similar content. Yet that isn’t something that deters Nada, he simply finds something else to make for his community.

While they’re all young, sometimes inspiration can come from the life experience you gain with time. Faggins draws on her real-life fashion background for clarity on her aesthetic.

“For the last five years, I've been in school. And when I transferred to the final school that I went to I started to create for the Sims...,” Faggins said. “And so, all my life, I thought it was going to be fashion design, then it turned into Design and Merchandising, which is like the business part of fashion. And now, I'd never thought it would be gaming. But I'm kind of like merging both of those two things that I love. Because gaming has always been a part of my life. It's how I connect with family friends.” 

What custom content signifies to Black Sims 4 players means seeing yourself in a game and feeling represented. But the representation here also matters for the people behind the content because without the work their doing, there isn’t any way for Black gamers to feel included in such a global gaming community.

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