Adventures with Anxiety
One of my absolute favorite games to talk about is Adventures with Anxiety. It's a visual novel game played in your browser and takes less than an hour to play. What I love about this game is that you play as the anxiety, depicted as a cute little red wolf. Your goal is to protect your human from three major fears:
Fear of being harmed
Fear of being unloved
Fear of being a bad person
The game is a fantastic piece of interactive fiction, changes based on the choices you make, and has multiple endings. Without spoiling anything, the game offers a story arc around the relationship between the human and her anxiety.
Be warned: this game is NOT for kids, though older teens may be ok. It deals with serious issues other than anxiety, including substance use (alcohol), swearing, and sexuality.
Why I Love It
There are so many reasons to love this game. Let's start with the therapeutic elements:
Anxiety is represented as an external thing, something that exists outside of the human. This kind of externalization is often a part of working with anxiety disorders.
The Wolf is legitimately trying to help her human. Anxiety serves a really important purpose in our lives and it's important to acknowledge it has a very important role to play. However...
The Wolf's behavior at the start of the game is over-reactive, meaning that the Wolf is responding to mundane things as if they're potentially deadly threats. And because of this, when real danger in the game does actually come up, the human ignores her anxiety. It's like car alarms - they go off constantly for no real reason and so we often learn to distrust or ignore them, so when someone does actually try to steal a car we're not very likely to pay attention.
The game is sarcastic and honest and is something that is enjoyable to go through and relatable rather than dry educational lecturing or something in-your-face that may be too overwhelming.
It provides a common language for talking about something as amorphous anxiety. You can ask things like "How is your anxiety wolf this week" and "what do you think your anxiety wolf was trying to protect you from, and did you really need protecting?"
Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational piece and is not clinical advice or training. Clinicians should always be familiar with both client and game before making any kind of recommendations.