Celeste’s Breathing Minigame Helped My Anxiety

Celeste’s Breathing Minigame Helped My Anxiety

I have been making my way through one of my new favorite platformers Celeste and was struck by one of the activities the game has you do. During one of the cutscenes, Madeline and a character named Theo are going up a ski-lift, which is stopped by your doppelganger. At this point, Madeline begins to have a panic attack, and Theo must calm her down. You work to calm Madeline down in a player-controlled event and eventually, she relaxes and the starts to lift move again. I’ve been thinking about that event a lot and realized it has helped my anxiety quite a bit.

As a little aside about myself. I have bad social/situational anxiety which has become quite a bit of a problem for me. I make strides to improve myself as much as I can, but you can only get so far. I am always working to find new solutions to curb panic attacks, as after a few times using a tactic, it begins to not work; as if I am fighting an AI.

Enter Celeste, a game I went into completely blind, only to find out it is actually all about overcoming anxiety. The game, much like Getting Over It, personifies the protagonist’s struggles into the form of a mountain for the player to cross. Madeline is determined to climb this mountain as a symbol of overcoming her anxiety even though people are telling her she cannot. This spoke to me much more than I thought this game would, and I appreciate seeing my issues personified so well.

The minigame you play to calm Madeline down has you holding and releasing the A button to simulate breathing in and out. Theo instructs you to imagine a feather. For each inhale the feather ascends, and for each exhale the feather falls. The gameplay involves keeping the feather in a box that is continually moving along with your breaths, and if you keep it there for long enough, the panic attack subsides.

As I was engaging in this, I caught myself breathing alongside the feather, and felt much calmer than I had in a long time. I decided I was going to give this a try to calm myself down during my next panic attack, and when it happened I couldn’t visualize that feather quick enough. I was excited to find that this tactic worked for me, and I felt a calming energy wash over me that helped to cool me down. I was surprised at how quickly it worked, and how even a week later, it is still working.

Games have a way to personify abstract concepts in a way other mediums of art simply cannot, and a developer like Matt Makes Games using it to bring mental disorders to life can be a powerful tool for those struggling. I implore anybody struggling with a mental disorder to play Celeste, a test in fortitude with amazing teaching tools. Even though this game is quite difficult, the assist mode will allow less skilled players to take a crack at what is 2018’s most important game so far.


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