How are ‘Stressed Out’ millennials seeking relief? Video games, of course
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Photo courtesy of Sodanle Chea/Flickr
“Stressed Out,” the hit song by Columbus, Ohio, duo twenty one pilots, has spent an astounding 28 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and shows little sign of slowdown. The track stirs up memories of treehouses and “when our momma sang us to sleep” — simpler times before student loan debt, the need to make money and self-consciousness took over.
The song’s success can’t help but make one wonder: Why exactly are millennials so stressed out, and how are they coping?
The economy, politics, and feeling overwhelmed after college are some of the stressors Abby Ellin cites for millennials.
“The world is really, really bleak,” says Ellin, a freelance writer for Psychology Today who has studied the generation extensively. “There’s so many things to worry about.”
According to a 2012 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 39 percent of millennials (ages 18-33) say their stress has increased in the last year. Also, 25 percent of millennials say they aren’t good at managing their stress, compared to 15 percent of those ages 48-66 and 7 percent of those 67 and older.
Millennials are also looking for more alternative methods for managing stress. According to a 2012 USA Today poll, 59 percent of millennials listen to music to cope with stress and 39 percent say they eat. Interestingly, 41 percent say they play video games or surf the Internet, which creates an open market for stress-relieving video games like Matthew Bambach’s prototype, Worry Quest.
Worry Quest starts with players choosing their “anxiety monster,” which is a visual representation of whatever causes their anxiety. The game consists of three “journeys” that use different psychotherapy techniques to help players defeat their monsters.
One of Worry Quest’s “anxiety monsters.”
“We use our phones all the time, we use apps all the time,” says Bambach, a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art who created the game as part of his thesis. “So, I figured if I made a fun adventure game where you interact with your ‘anxiety monster’ after you create it, that could be a good solution.”
When it came to choosing the project, which Bambach recently funded on IndieGoGo, he wanted to work with stress and anxiety relief for young people, since he’s been dealing with it for most of his life.
“I wanted to find something that was rooted in a personal issue,” says Bambach. “College-age people, or millennials, are going through the same stuff that people have been going through for generations, but there are added layers of student debt and expectation.”
Bambach’s game isn’t the first of it’s kind, though. Other games like Jane McGonigal’s Superbetter and Sony’s Flower are well-established in the market.
McGonigal created Superbetter after suffering a severe concussion in 2009. In order to heal, she asked her friends to give her tasks to complete each day that slowly helped her get over her condition. Similarly, Superbetter gives users different tasks to perform. As they get further into the game, the tasks become more complex, building up the users resilience to whatever may be afflicting them.
“I really hope that we can come together to play games that matter, to survive on this planet for another century,” McGonigal said in a 2010 TED talk. “When I look forward to the next decade, I know two things for sure: that we can make any future we can imagine, and we can play any games we want. So I say: Let the world-changing games begin.”
A screenshot of Flower. Courtesy of pushsquare.com.
Also released in 2009, Flower involves users playing as a series of flower petals blowing in the wind around various obstacles. Though it wasn’t designed with combating mental health issues in mind, the game has since been used to soothe those who may be afflicted by them.
Though millennials may be seen as the carefree generation, the issue of stress among young people is a very serious one. Hopefully, with these games and others like them at their disposal, it’s on its way to being resolved, and songs like “Stressed Out” will eventually seem irrelevant.