Abzu restored my faith in video games

Abzu inner peace Giant Squid Studios mental health

Welcome to 2019! The new year is a time for rebirth, rejuvenation, and a clean slate. As with every new year, people make resolutions and try to improve over the previous year. Although I set goals, I honestly never follow through with them. It’s not that I don’t try, but life throws curveballs that deviate me from the course I’ve laid out. Well, last month, something unexpected happened. I couldn’t find joy in playing video games anymore. It’s weird to say this because I write for multiple video game websites. It’s a hobby that has become something more than that. Video games introduced me to new people, provided me with years of entertainment, and they are a part of my identity. After a few rough weeks, I was contemplating giving gaming up. Maybe I outgrew it. Perhaps the medium just wasn’t for me anymore. Little did I know that Abzu, from Giant Squid Studios, would be the game that I needed to make me fall in love with games again.

Interestingly enough, I played through Abzu before on Xbox One. I’m an achievement hunter and heard that the game was easy to complete, so I played it on Game Pass. I didn’t care about the game, just the achievements because I was in a race against a few other Xbox players. Abzu was in my Switch library, and I started playing it earlier today. I fully intended to get to it last year, but life and mental health issues always took me away from the underwater adventure. I’m not even sure why I booted up Abzu because my problems with video games were still the same this morning as they’ve been for the past few weeks.

Inner peace is strong with Abzu

From the opening moments, the serene nature of Abzu made my heart fill with joy. I love swimming with the diver through the water. Looking around the open ocean with the analog sticks show a world brimming with life. The way that the schools of fish swim together. The sharks that seem intimidating, but are as gentle as can be. The whales and dolphins that you can grab onto and swim with. Abzu is a very relaxing experience that provides a palette cleanser compared to the gritty games that overtake the industry.

There are no senseless killings, the narrative isn’t dark, and you can’t die. Abzu is about exploration, the celebration of nature, and is also full of culture. According to the game’s Wikipedia page, Abzu’s “setting and story drew from Sumerian Mythology.” Despite the lack of dialogue in the game, there is a story that moves the diver forward. You can see murals throughout Abzu that explain what’s going on around you. While I didn’t fully grasp everything the creative team intended for me to discover, I couldn’t help but be enthralled by the journey.

It’s time for something new

I think my problems with video games came from playing the same types of games all the time. It gets boring playing open-world game after open-world game. Most of the titles in my collection are action-oriented first-person shooters, many racers, and RPGs I’ll probably never get to. While many of the games in my (200+) backlog are loved by gamers, I can’t help but see so many similarities between them.

Abzu is a game outside of my comfort zone. Underwater levels in video games give me anxiety. Fellow writers from Enthusiast sites make fun of me (it’s out of love.) for freaking out during sessions of Sea of Thieves because of those relentless sharks. When I was a kid, the water levels in Banjo-Kazooie had me screaming. Even games like Far Cry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey bother me because of water. Despite my skepticism, it was time to fully experience Abzu the way that it was meant to be played. I’m glad I did because Abzu accomplished something that video games hadn’t been able to do in a while; it made me happy to be a gamer.

Getting back into the swing of things, one game at a time

Abzu is the first video game I completed in 2019. As I said in the beginning, the new year is like a clean slate. Despite the problems I had at the end of 2018, I’m committed to making 2019 incredible. Everything happens for a reason. Some people fall out of love with what they enjoy while others may never experience that feeling. I ended 2018 uncertain about what my year would hold. I mean, after all, if I struggled to enjoy video games, how would that affect my writing about them? That seems to have changed thanks to Abzu. Only time will tell how my views will change, but for now, Abzu has restored my faith in video games. It helped me find inner peace, start 2019 on the right foot, and make me feel genuinely happy. Thanks, Giant Squid Studios. Abzu was more than a game for me. It was an adventure that helped me search deep into my soul to find the person I seemed to be losing touch with.


If you enjoyed this article, check out our other recent article, “Mario therapy: How games help me manage anxiety and depression.”

Andrew Gonzalez
Andrew Gonzalez is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of Xbox Enthusiast. When not writing about Xbox, he's usually reading comics, talking about Taylor Swift, and dreaming of the perfect Jet Force Gemini Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter. @AJGVulture89