Board games and mental health: Mikko Games

I’ve talked about board games and mental health, in my case anxiety, a little in the past. Both in terms of self promotion (as a designer) and attending conventions (as a player). So I’m always happy to help someone else who suffers in their own board game related projects.

In this case it’s Michael Adams, and the company he started up, Mikko Games. Michael dropped out of college at 17, suffering from anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue. Playing board games helped him dig himself out of the deep hole he found himself in. So, he decided to start an online board game store and website. But which is also dedicated to letting others who have struggled with mental illness tell their stories.

The store’s stock is geared towards its aims, rather than being a one-stop-shop for board gamers. There’s a clear emphasis on simple rules and fun, with most of the games stocked being in the ‘under 30 minutes’ category. But categories for ‘big groups’, ‘small groups’ and ‘plastic free’ go some way to showing the ethos behind the site in general when compared to other online board game stores. The fact that signing up for the mailing list promises “helpful information on improving your mental health” as well as game discounts says it all.

A screen grab from the Mikko Games mental health blog

Telling their stories

But what really makes the site stand out is the attached ‘Gaming and mental health‘ blog. The site has only been up since the summer of 2021, but already has several long posts by people who have used board games to help them on their journey towards better mental health. How gaming has helped them connect better with friend and family. Or become part of a community after becoming reclusive. Or simply being a form of ‘self-care’, while giving fresh ideas for spending more time with the family.

COVID-19 hit a lot of people hard. and while many sadly lost loved ones, I can’t help thinking the mental price we’ve paid could well be even bigger in the long run. In this respect, I count myself very lucky to have had board games as a constant throughout the crisis. Whether playing live in my ‘bubble’, or online with friends across the world. They’ve helped me stay connected in the best way possible.

It’s hard to explain to ‘normies’ just how debilitating anxiety, and other mental health problems, can be. Days when you can’t get out of bed, can’t even talk to anyone. When you cancel plans because you can’t face being in a room with other people, even if you know and love them. Or when you’re trying to work when you’ve had zero sleep because your mind simply refuses to shut off. Michael deserves credit for simply breaking through that. But even more so as they’ve turned it into a positive, creating a business designed to help others. So if you’ve got a minute, why not go check out Mikko Games.

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