top of page
  • Writer's picturePaul Matthew

Reality Bytes - A mindful gaming focussed exercise for Grounding, Stress and Anxiety

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

This past week I was on holiday in Munich. Germany is a place that's very special to my heart . I once (as a 20 something) rambled around every corner of it in another life as a musician. The streets were familiar, I felt happy, I felt grounded.

A couple of days in, a massive strike was announced and I was stranded. My companion and I sat in the Shnieder Brauhaus in the heart of Munich and I was just getting ready to sip my first beer of the day when we got a notification of our cancelled flights (and trains and busses and trams). We couldn't go anywhere on Monday, or Tuesday and I had clients booked in for Tuesday who I didn't want to let down. Short of a session from a hotel room from my mobile phone, I had to get home.

(Accurate representation of the look on my face when I got to re-kindle my love of German bread products)

There's something about that panic/ anxiety state (at least for me) my gut drops, I felt tense, the world went blurry. I got up and went to the bathroom and came back. I took a sip of the beer and felt my toes on the floor of a bar I knew all too well as a 20 something (I'll not say how many years ago that was).

Between us we had a good knowledge of Germany (on my part) and of flights (on theirs) so we figured out that a gruelling 7hr train journey across Bavaria and Saxony was possible which would get us to London and then from there we could get back to my car in Edinburgh.

Why this story now on a post about games, well I'll get to that.

We had a couple of days left, not the 4 we were supposed to but we couldn't let that stop us enjoying the trip. We condensed our to do list (missed out on a tour of a particular football stadium I was very excited about - though did get to see) and we got on with it.

We got to the day we had to leave and got the first train without trouble. Five hours later we got to a place called Hof in the north of Bavaria (one hour later than planned). We did make a train to Dresden with a few hours to spare. I knew Germany well but my grasp on German has slipped a lot over the years and the train stopped a lot, seemingly randomly. Apparently to do with the strikes, but the fear rose in me at one point, four or so hours in, that we would be stuck in northern Bavaria.

I brought myself back to earth in the only way I know how, put on my playlists, I looked at cinema trips (see previous exercises below) and I thought about a computer game I had spent many joyful hours on the last few months and that brought me to thinking about this blog post.

This has always meant to be a Trilogy of sorts. The playlist exercise came first, then the movies, and now (as a gamer at heart) a slightly more niche topic but interestingly one that all clients I have used this with so far had responses. There's some outside of the box thinking, for instance, think of it as Video Games, Parlor games, Tabletop Games, Card Games, Sports, family activities... and you'll get a clearer idea of the scope.

The initial idea of it though was just from my experience as someone who grew up with games (Commodore 64 or Sega Megadrive anyone?) and how much joy games brought me. How they were my cultural resource in my teens and twenties and how (although no where near as often with all the "adulting" I have to do these days) they are still a resource for me to this day.

So if you've read the other exercises this will run very simply. Remember you can ask all or just some of the questions, they can be the basis for a session or the grounding technique at the end. The client doesn't need to answer everything, can tell stories or just give a quick gur response. Maybe it would also work as an icebreaker at the start if a client is finding it difficult to trust or open up.

1. What’s a game that reminds you of your childhood?

It’s useful to consider childhood stories and allow time for reminiscing but at the same time be mindful of this question. If the client has had a difficult childhood skipping this question or working with caution may be required.

2. What’s a game that reminds you of a good time in your life?

Again allow space for story telling. This can be as much of a narrative activity as a mindful one.

3. What’s a game that you would recommend to anyone?

What game would they wish all their friends had played, a game they would play at any time or any place.

4. What’s a game that had you hooked?

Here we are looking for a game that the client really felt took them away from things. The catharsis of gaming. This can be hard with non-video games but in video games there might be an answer around the story of the game and what it made them feel. With non-video games the answers can often be more about the experience with friends or on their own.

5. What’s your go to social game?

Similar to some of the other questions, what game or games connected them to other people? Maybe there isn’t one, it’s also important to understand what gaming is to the client, for some it’s a very solo venture, for other it’s their escape with friends.

6. What’s your all-time favourite game?

This is pretty self-explanatory, some people struggle with these sorts of questions though so a way to help them is to guide them by suggesting they either just go with the first thing that came to mind, they can say multiple or they say the last good game they played (and skip the next question).

7. What’s the last great game you played?

And how did it make you feel…

You can add in that second part or not, see if it feels useful. They might not have an answer, that’s OK too.

8. What game helped get you through a tough time in your life?

This is another one that might have several or no answers. What it reminds clients of is the power of cultural resources to help in the healing process and help them in between or after counselling is over. Many clients are wonderfully resilient they just forget sometimes. Many need a hand in building up that resilience.

9. You can take one game, one console (or PC with the ability to play that one game) to a desert island, what do you take?

I often allow clients to answer multiple here. A video-game, a board game etc. It might be fluxx comes with them but also The Last of Us.

10. What game is next? Is it out yet, have you been ignoring it or letting life get in the way?

This just allows clients to think to the future, perhaps there’s something they are looking forward to or a games night with friends coming up. Perhaps they have been inspired to return to an old favourite from the questions above.

And that's it.

It can be helpful to check in with the client to assess how they felt before the exercise and how they felt after. Encourage them to consider any questions they skipped over for next time or perhaps they might want to change their answers after thought between now and the next session.

Thanks for Reading


Paul Matthew

MA, MSc, MBACP (Accred)

Director and Games nerd

Harmony Counselling and Psychotherapy


bottom of page