Video games were always something that I enjoyed growing up. My brother and I played our fair share of Playstation and Xbox, and even as adults we’ll have a quick blast at any co-op game we can find while home for Christmas.

As an adult with seemingly endless responsibilities, chores, and jobs, I’m less inclined now to spend 20 minutes of my actual day playing video games that send me from one side of the map to the other to meet characters I’ll never remember. As soon as a game starts ordering me do its laundry and fetch things for it, my interest-driven ADHD brain is out.

That said, I have found one video game genre that actually helps de-clutter my brain, particularly when I feel stress building up or when I need to relax in the aftermath of an intense day of hyperfocus: Real Time Strategy (RTS).

[Read: How Animal Crossing Became My Pandemic Therapy]

As kids, Age of Empires II was the only game we had that didn’t overwhelm our old computer. To me, AoE and similar RTS games are still the only ones I play on PC.

Most RTS games begin the same way — with a few workers who build a colony, then help you progress through research levels until you can afford to build a powerful army and totally annihilate everyone else on the map. The often overlooked ultimate goal usually involves some sort of war crime, but there’s something very relaxing about gradually dominating the map or just enjoy the pretend worlds and drama.

During the pandemic, I’ve experienced manageable bouts of anxiety, stress, and sometimes depression. Going to the shops was, at one point, the only thing to do while I was at home alone, and even that makes me ping like a squash ball.

To my ADHD brain, the process of building up my base and economy, then using it to absolutely crush any attackers brings me a sense of order, process, accomplishment, and thus, calm.

[Read: 7 ADHD Relaxation Techniques]

Over time, I’ve found myself reconnecting with these simple games and it’s just been really nice to have that small sense of control restored. It gives me an hour to escape and immerse myself in interactive fiction that is ordered and free from real-life worries, and to me that’s not time wasted at all.

Calming Video Games: Next Steps

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Updated on May 10, 2021


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