Have you ever wanted to get a little bit more from your gaming experiences? Maybe you want to track everything you’ve achieved in your favorite games in one place, or maybe you want to see how your rank in a competitive game has progressed over time. Maybe you even struggle with tilt while gaming and want to find out exactly what triggers your anger or decompress after a rough match. If you identify with any of these statements and want to learn more about self-reflection, journaling might be the activity for you.
Journaling has long been a method prescribed by therapists, counselors, and mental health advocates the world over. Frequent journaling has been proven to reduce stress, increase self-confidence, and improve memory. While most of us haven’t kept a daily diary since we were kids, journaling doesn’t necessarily have to involve the methodical recording of everything that happened to you during a given day. You don’t have to be creative or artistically-minded, either; journals can be as simple as lists, notes, and records or as complicated as works of art that incorporate information that’s relevant to you. The biggest draw of journaling is its flexibility: you can track what’s meaningful to you and ignore the rest. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate journaling into your gaming routine and feel better about your favorite hobby.
Tracking your progress
Those who play competitive games are probably familiar with the concept of “ELO hell.” First coined by MOBA players, ELO hell occurs when players are unable to climb the ranks of a competitive game because they believe their teammates are unskilled or unable to help them. Players who believe they should rightfully be placed in platinum or diamond are stuck in bronze, silver, or gold due to the incompetent players they’re matched with.
Is this always the truth of the situation? No. I’ve met plenty of folks who believed that they should be higher up the ladder who definitely didn’t have the skills to back it up. On the flip side, I’ve also met players who really did deserve to be higher, but they seemed to be on a permanently unlucky streak or continually got stuck with brain-dead teammates. In cases like these, it can be easy to feel as though you aren’t improving at all in your game of choice, whether it’s a classic MOBA or your favorite FPS.
Enter: journaling. Keeping a written record of your progress each time you play – even if it’s just listing the numerical changes in your rank – helps you see how your play has changed over time. You can also record other stats, like number of headshots, time alive, or objectives captured. While some games record this information for you, the act of handwriting your numbers in a physical journal is what prompts many of the associated mental health benefits. It’s a great way to improve your confidence over time and see how far you’ve progressed while also getting a clearer picture of your skill in a given game. Record-keeping is especially helpful if you plan on going pro for a game or playing competitively – you can bet that team captains and organizations will be impressed with your meticulous notes.
Keeping your cool
We all tilt sometimes – it’s just a fact of life. What matters is not that we tilt, but whether we’re able to shake it off and remind ourselves that it is, in fact, just a game. Despite being an extremely impatient person in real life, I usually don’t tilt unless I think a situation was genuinely unfair. I also find that I tend to get more upset if I had a stressful day or am already in a bad mood – as much as I love using competitive games to burn off stress, sometimes they add to it instead of making things better.
For those who struggle with serious, long-lasting tilt or frequent anger issues, journaling about your experience is a great way to relieve stress caused by gaming and see things from a different perspective. Instead of typing that reactionary message in chat or yelling at your bronze-ranked teammate over voice comms, try taking a second to write down exactly what happened and how you felt about it in your journal. The act of writing by hand and recording your thoughts distances you from the situation, allowing you to cool down and see the situation more clearly.
This can also serve as a record of your gaming experiences that helps you identify patterns more easily. Maybe games are making you frustrated more than they’re making you happy or confident. Life is busy, and sometimes it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. Journaling helps you rise above the day-to-day madness and find better ways to handle and express your stress.
Setting goals and remembering the highs
Your journal isn’t just a place to record negative experiences. It can also be a place to set goals and recognize your achievements. For the same reason that tilt makes it hard to see past a haze of frustration, it can be difficult to recognize our achievements and positive experiences during the hustle and bustle of everyday life – and everyday gaming. Ideally, your journal should be a place of reflection, inspiration, and thoughtful improvement in whatever form best benefits you.
Interested in getting better at a given game or trying to climb the ranks with friends? Write down a few goals in your journal and give them deadlines – or at least general timelines. Record your progress as you work on them, and celebrate when you reach them! If you don’t quite make it, that’s no reason to be down on yourself; readjust your goal, rally your friends, and give it another shot.
If you reach your goal or another marker of progress or completion in a game, like finding all the Korok seeds in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or getting a platinum trophy in a PlayStation game, celebrate it! Write down how you made it to your goal or how you felt when you achieved it. On bad mental health days or days when you’re not feeling confident, you can flip back through your journal and read about past achievements to help yourself feel better. You can also look back years later and see what games you were playing and get a sense of how far you’ve come since then.
Journaling doesn’t have to be an obsessive practice, nor do you have to write a book every time you do it. In just a few minutes a day, you can organize your thoughts, get a better sense of where you are and where you’re going, and reflect on your gaming life in a way that’s meaningful to you. Part of the magic of journaling is that it looks different for everyone and is infinitely customizable – if one person’s methods don’t work for you, twist and tweak them to make them your own. In picking up a pen and writing in a journal, you might just see your gaming – and yourself – in a whole new light.