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Games For Coping, Processing, & Learning

By Brian Kunde

Stories are one of the ways we help ourselves make sense of the human experience. We use television, movies, books, and other media to comfort ourselves, process emotions, and learn new ways of looking at the world. Many therapists suggest media to their clients to help them process their own struggles and challenges.

But stories aren’t the only way we make sense of the world; play is another tool for engaging our minds and helping ourselves process complicated things. Video games offer us a chance to combine both of these methods together into one experience and I often add games to the list of media I recommend.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Gris by Nomada Studio & Devolver Digital
Available for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Windows, macOS, iOS, & Android.
Ages 7+

Taking only about 3-4 hours to complete, Gris is a platform-adventure game about a girl by the same name, who finds herself wandering through strange structures to regain her voice and abilities. Its story deals with themes of grief and how we move on with our lives after a loss.

Sayonara Wild Hearts by Simogo & Annapurna Interactive
Available on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, macOs, iOs, Windows, & Xbox One
Ages 10+

A “pop album” rhythm game, Sayonara Wild Hearts follows a young woman through a colorful landscape of her past failed relationships as she tries to determine just where things went wrong. Its story deals with breakups, self-love, and overcoming codependency.

Celeste by Maddy Thorson & Noel Berry
Available on Windows, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, macOS, and Linux.
Ages 7+

Another platform-adventure game, Celeste follows Madeline as she attempts to climb a mountain alone while trying to overcome her own struggles with anxiety in addition to dangers such as crumbling cities, ghosts, and chilling cold. Celeste explores themes on family of origin, anxiety, gender identity, and learning to love oneself.

Overcooked Series by Ghost Town Games & Team17
Entries Available on Windows, PlayStation 4 & 5, XBox One & Series X, and Nintendo Switch.
Ages 3+

Overcooked is a classic “couch co-op” game for 2-4 players controlling chefs in kitchens filled with hazards working to frantically prepare meals for hungry customers. This is a great game for working on communication skills together, as it requires players to strategize around roles, changing demands, and unexpected challenges to succeed. A fun exercise is to ask your youth to first play it without speaking and then debrief on the difficulty of teamwork without communication.