Recent Reading

It’s been a few days since my last entry, but that seems to be becoming the norm – for the most part, my mental health status is relatively stable these days, and I haven’t really gotten anywhere with CPS training yet. I am still working with NAMI, though, and I am attending their SMARTS for Advocacy training in about ten days; it’s to help with advocacy for mental health treatment in the world in general, focusing on being able to tell your story clearly and coherently and get your message across to people in positions of power – like legislators – through meetings and letters or calls. It sounds like something worthwhile to do, so that’s where I’ll be spending a day.

Like I’ve said before, since I now work in an area of my job where I can listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts while I work, I get the chance to do a lot of ‘reading’. Recently, one of the better books I’ve gone through is called Extra Lives: Why Video Game Matter, by Tom Bissell. Bissell is a writer who has written on a number of scholarly topics, but in his spare time is also, it seems, a video game fanatic. This book goes through nine games from recent years, from Grand Theft Auto to Far Cry 2 to Mass Effect, and makes a case that while they may not necessarily be art (though they are certainly getting there), they are amazing achievements, and fun ways to spend time. I think I’d recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t play video games, but knows someone who does, and wonders why; it can be a little academic at times, and Bissell is often dismissive of games as an art form even though he is an avid fan, but it goes a long way towards explaining the reasons why gamers find video games so entrancing – they are far, far from the Pong and Asteroids of the early days.

It’s not like Jane McGonigal, by any means – this book does not talk about the traits of games that mean gamers are often learning while they play – about social interaction, teamwork, puzzle-solving, math, and other things – and how they can be used to help make society, in many aspects, better. Mostly, it just talks about why video games are so attractive to gamers, and how they have evolved over the last couple decades into the enormous works – of art, or just design – that they are today. Bissell does use some rough language, and does occasionally talk about his own past addictions – mainly cocaine – in relation to video games, but they do serve the point he is trying to make, even if it can get a little ugly.

Aside from that, I’ve also been listening to recordings (now podcasts) from the last several years on mental illness. The NAMI chapter of Athens, Ohio apparently does a monthly or bi-monthly radio show talking about mental illness topics, appropriately called Conversations about Mental Illness. Each show is only a half-hour long, but they interview a lot of people – either authors, or doctors, or people with mental illness who are living proof that you can overcome it and live a reasonably regular life. A lot of the information is old hat to me, having been through a lot of treatment over the years, but it is still nice to hear that people are trying to be so active in their advocacy for those suffering from mental illness, and the stigma of having it that exists even today.

I’m tempted to do something like a YouTube video talking about my own story, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I don’t really want to sound scripted, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time just trying to fill air while I process my own thoughts. I’m also a little worried about what kind of reception it would get – would it get back to my employers? Would I have to severely restrict comments in order to avoid the torrent of comments about how terrible a person I am that inevitably comes with such things on the internet? I’m not sure, so if someone has any tips on how to make such a video, let me know.

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