by MarineVeteran | U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
I was on active duty from 2006-2015 in the United States Marine Corps. My job, or MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was a 0614, Tactical Switching Operator, or in a shorter term “AT&T for the Marines”. I deployed to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2011. It wasn’t until 2013, I found an outlet in creating content on and off, considering that I was still on active duty at the time and could not devote too much time as certain priorities took over. In 2014, I found a live-streaming site known as JustinTV. This opened my eyes to something I never thought would ever be a possibility for myself. However, in 2014, I found out that the military was doing a drawdown of the active duty personnel, and in 2015, I would be discharged from the Marines with an Honorable Discharge.
I continued to stream and create content and find games I never thought I would ever play. Gaming, for me, is more than just “Oh, let’s see what this is”. It’s a connection with people from all over the world and creating friendships that have helped my mental health in ways textbooks could never fathom to understand. We’ve heard time and time again that “games lead to violence”. I would argue that gaming saves lives because it provides that outlet that millions of other Veterans, including myself, have been able to find. And don’t get me wrong, I don't just play one style or genre of games, either. I play a multitude of games, from first-person shooters to RPGs, to real-time strategy games like RISK and Command & Conquer, and even the simulator games as well.
It’s these types of games, coupled with streaming, that has allowed me to connect with both the casual and hardcore gaming communities. The casual communities are those that just like to chill and relax while accomplishing goals and objectives. The hardcore communities are those that cater to the best gear, the best strategies, the best everything. And if you don’t have any of that, you’re not on that level. I like to view myself as somewhere in the middle: someone who likes to relax and accomplish goals while getting the eBay stuff but takes the game too seriously. Both of these communities have allowed me to connect with not only civilian gaming groups and try to understand the transition from the military better but also helped me find these veteran communities: Disgruntled Veterans, The USO, RegimentGG, and Stack Up.
Now, I mention Stack Up last for a few reasons. 1 - I’ve been proud to fundraise and create some rather insane charity streams throughout the past few years. 2 - Their legitimate 24/7 support section, where there is always someone there if you need to reach out. And 3 - The amount of things they do for us Veterans and our NATO allies as well. From Supply Crates that have gaming items to the gear that they have to even sending us Veterans to conventions, they’ve been a vital part of why I enjoy gaming and streaming as much as I do now.
Being part of all of the communities means that if I’m ever not in a good mental space, I
know that there’s someone who’s up and gaming, that I can just chill and vibe with and game with. Even playing Escape From Tarkov, probably THE HARDEST game I’ve ever played, I still can hit up anyone playing the game and just relax, if you can believe that that’s possible with that game. Plus, being part of the many communities that I’m part of, I can mention when I’m doing a charity run or event or possibly see who wants to group up, and we do what we do best: Just have fun with whatever it is.
There are a few games that have had a positive impact on my mental health, and I’ll explain as to why each one has that impact as we go along:
Escape From Tarkov - This game has helped me broaden my horizons and reconnect with Veterans who enjoy that rush of a real fight in a game. The coordination that’s needed to complete a single task, unless playing solo, is incredibly difficult to achieve if you are not a true team player. And I cannot for the life of me explain it, but I am eerily calm when playing this game.
Any simulator game - These types of games such as Satisfactory, Farming Simulator 22, Power Washing Simulator and American/European Trucking Simulator. These games provide the relaxing part of what’s needed when the majority of the games are fast-paced and always on the “GO GO GO!” mentality.
Final Fantasy XIV Online, Valheim, Diablo IV - Want to dive into a world where the possibilities are only at your fingertips? These are the ones that do this. These are the games where tactical play can be the difference in either success or respawning at a previous save. They allow for that aspect of escaping from what is to what can be. Especially when it comes to dealing with not only physical pain but mental pain as well. These have the greatest impact as the characters I’m controlling just allow me to escape to a world of unknowns.
Destiny - I’ve always enjoyed a game that allows the player to basically be in control of just about anything and everything that is in front of them. And when you can team up with 2-5 of your closest friends to complete either the seasonal and weekly stuff to the harder items in the game, such as raids and Grandmaster level strikes, Destiny provides the ability for comradery.
The Real Time Strategy games - From building bases to real tactics, these games really place critical thinking into play. For me, I enjoy understanding what limits I can have and seeing if I can go even further with them on some of the strategy games that are out there. Even the 4X games (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), they all allow me to see what potential awaits in accomplishing the end goals.
Gaming, as a whole, has been nothing but amazing. It not only provides an escape from
what I and many others deal with daily, but it also allows us to connect with other like-minded individuals. Gaming does more good than what people want to give it credit for as it allows multiple demographics to not only connect but to foster some friendships and even help people find their significant others as well. Online charity works have also been a factor when thinking of gaming as well. It does more than just allow the user to create or play as a character. It helps our mental health to be in a better state. Because when you’re going through something and want to connect with like-minded people, gaming just has that notion to do so more often than not.