The second installment of the Mental Health Series is headlined by Amr El Meligy, a content copywriter for Syft. A fierce football fanatic with numerous accolades, El Meligy is also a renowned FIFA player and has been ranked one of the top 200 players in the world on FIFA 17’s FUT Weekend Leagues.
In this installment, El Meligy discusses how video games impacted his early childhood, helped him maintain a positive headspace during a particularly rough period in his life, and introduced a new mentality to guide him into the future.
An edited transcript is below. Each of the responses has been edited for clarity and concision.
HIS HISTORY WITH VIDEO GAMES
Jarrod: What drew you into Syft? What’s your history with video games?
Amr: [I came to Syft because] it’s related to something I’m really passionate about. Gaming has been a way of just adapting to everything that’s been happening in my life. Recently, I’ve overcome a lot through gaming. I wouldn’t say only through gaming, but gaming was definitely a huge factor.
I started really getting into video games when I was like seven years old. It was with the PlayStation One, which was a very strange console because, here in Egypt specifically, we don’t have that much technology.
Let’s say the PlayStation 5 released in April 2020. It would have come to Egypt in April 2021: that’s basically how things go here. So the PlayStation One at the time was the thing, and I didn’t really get what was going on, I just remember hopping onto the console and figuring everything out myself. I don’t really remember the specifics, but I used to play a whole lot of games, different genres as well.
Everything really started when I was 13 years old. I started really playing FIFA and went on to become a professional FIFA player in 2017. [I] won a lot of competitions here in Egypt and joined some competitions abroad as well. Didn’t manage to win any of them yet, but I’m still playing right now, as well on a semi-professional level I’d say.
Jarrod: What was it about FIFA that stood out to you?
Amr: I don’t know. I remember spending hours and hours without even realizing it. I’m just very passionate about soccer in real life, which might be the reason why this game meant so much to me at the time. I do play soccer professionally on a team here in Egypt, [so I’m] always connected to FIFA in some kind of way. I’m very passionate about watching football as well.
Jarrod: I just want to delve into your time playing FIFA. Was there a particular memory that stands out to you as your favorite?
Amr: I remember FIFA 17. There’s a game mode called FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) Champions, which is like a weekend league: you play 40 matches, starting from Friday up until Sunday. People from the European region play each other, people from the North Eastern region play each other and so forth. This is where champions really meet.
You play 40 matches and, depending on how many matches you win, you get a rank. So let’s say you get 40 wins, you’re top 200 in the world. That was really a good challenge for me. One week, I got 37 wins and managed to qualify for the top 200 in the world. It really meant a lot at the time because here in Egypt, we don’t have a server. We basically play on the European server, which is far away, so the ping is always very bad. We play on 100 ping or something so you always have a disadvantage when you’re playing against people playing on a 10 ping.
Jarrod: How did that make you feel?
Amr: Very proud of myself and all my efforts, because I spent a lot of time on that game. I remember playing 10+ hours per day — I was that heavily into it. Again, the server point is a very valid one. It was very hard here, but that’s why it was even more special.
HOW VIDEO GAMES AFFECTED HIS MENTAL HEALTH AND LIFE
Jarrod: You mentioned overcoming something.
Amr: I managed to overcome a very serious relationship I’d been involved in. I was in the relationship for about two years and we split up. At the time, I thought it was going to be a very hard time, but I distracted myself by playing video games. I was just playing all the time and catching up with my friends and didn’t have enough time to think bad thoughts.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I had suicidal thoughts, but I did have just bad, negative thoughts. I didn’t have much time for that. I was playing a lot of FIFA 18 and Fortnite with my friends. It was really fun to just get my mind off what I was thinking about.
Jarrod: When you were going through this time, what was going through your head? If you didn’t play those games, what would you have been feeling?
Amr: I would just go through old chats, maybe go through some pictures, think about what I had done wrong, what went wrong. I think I would have gone a different path, which wouldn’t have been preferable at the time. I’m just thankful it went the way it went.
Jarrod: Right. A lot of people have been talking about how video games have this negative connotation. For you personally, what would you tell people about how video games helped you?
Amr: I just want to add a very important thing: they helped me because I was setting my mind. I didn’t want to be in a negative spot, so I was like, ‘I’m going to play video games, I’m going to be distracted, I’m not going to think about it.’ I went in with the mentality of, ‘I’m going to get past this,’ which was really huge for me.
If you’re not there yet mentally, you’re never going to make it through, no matter what you try. It’s basically all in your mind. Video games happened to be a very useful tool for me at the time… and a huge factor for getting through what I was going through.
HOW HIS VIEW ON VIDEO GAMES CHANGED OVER TIME
Jarrod: In your time playing video games, have you become more appreciative of them?
Amr: I wouldn’t say I’ve become more appreciative of them, but at the same time, I’d say I’m on the same level. The one change is that whenever I’m not having fun, usually I used to just carry on playing and get more frustrated. Now that I’ve matured, I quit. That’s something I tend to do a lot recently is I quit a lot. I just leave the game and turn off my PS4 and go do anything. That’s the major area I’ve seen change.
THOUGHTS ON THE GAMING SPACE’S TOXICITY/SOLUTIONS
Jarrod: I just want to get your thoughts on this toxicity within the video game community. How can we, as gamers, as people who write for Syft, and as people in general, mitigate the toxicity within the video game community?
Amr: As cliche as it sounds, just start with yourself. I know this might sound very silly, but that’s what I’ve done. Whenever I find myself starting to be toxic, I just quit the game. No matter how good it was, no matter how badly I wanted to play, I just quit … So that way, I’m not really being as toxic. Whenever I meet a toxic person, I just try to have an influence on them.
I usually end up messaging them and, not really in a cocky way or anything, I ask, ‘Why man? What’s the point? Are you going through a rough time or something? Because I don’t see why you’re doing that.’
The other day, I messaged a guy and we ended up having like an hour-long conversation, and he really started to go personal. We were having a match and the connection was horrible – like, really bad. He ended up winning the game, but he was just passing the ball for around 60 minutes or so. When the match ended, I messaged him, ‘Why man? What’s the point?’ He replied, ‘You gotta do what you gotta do to win.
I told him, ‘If you just want to win, you’re better off playing single games. There’s no point in playing online except to have fun.’ He said, ‘Yeah man, I know.’ Then we ended up having a really long conversation. I’m aware that not everybody’s going to go that route and not a lot of people would like to influence people. But if you find someone who’s really being toxic, I’d encourage you to just try talking to them.
As cliche as it sounds, it’s just like any other thing you’re going to do in your life. If you take it too seriously, it’s never going to be good for you. My advice is, do it casually. It’s no big deal.
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF VIDEO GAMES ON MENTAL HEALTH
Jarrod: In your opinion, how can video games help someone’s mental health?
Amr: Just try to have fun with it. If you aren’t having fun, just stop and try something else. If you’re having fun, GGs, you’re being distracted and finding a new thing to do in your life. The point is, whenever you don’t have fun, just quit or stop and find yourself another game or any other thing to do.
You’re not only going to harm yourself by wasting your own time, you’re also going to hurt other people. Whenever you don’t have fun, you’re also going to be toxic, and this is where the toxicity starts.
Jarrod: It’s like a closed loop; one happens because of the other.
Amr: Yeah, that’s how we could describe it, it’s a closed loop. Whenever you’re not having fun, you’re going to be toxic … So whenever you don’t have fun, just quit. Let the community grow in a good way.
CHANGING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH IN SOCIETY
Jarrod: In the United States, there have been more talks about mental health in society. I don’t know how mental health is dealt with in the Middle East, but I’m assuming there’s a stigma.
Amr: There is and,usually, people who go to psychiatrists are called ‘crazy.’ A lot of people deny the fact that someone could really have depression. It’s like a joke around here: if someone’s depressed, they’re like ‘Hahaha, you’re depressed.’
Things have been changing lately, though. The idea of a life coach has been introduced through recent years and people are becoming more aware through campaigns. Influencers have also had influence on that topic as well. But, yes, there’s definitely a stigma.
Jarrod: What can be done to change the stigma of mental health in your society and in society as a whole?
Amr: From what I’ve seen, campaigns are really effective — I’d like to see more celebrities raising awareness because they have a lot of influence on people. For example, if you see your favorite player or favorite actor talking about this, we’re going to take it seriously. I’d like to see more celebrities and influencers talking about this because they really do have an influence.
CHANGING THE STIGMA OF VIDEO GAMES IN SOCIETY
Jarrod: If you were going to tell someone about the positive effects of video games so that we can reduce the stigma, what would you tell them?
Amr: I’d tell them video games can massively help with your mental issues and mental health. It could boost your adrenaline when you’re accomplishing missions and doing tasks. It could connect you with another side of the world pretty easily.
It’s usually a misconception that gamers have no social life. I think it goes the other way around. I think all gamers have connections from all around the world. You’re creating your own network from nothing, which is a really good side of gaming that not a lot of people are aware of.
Jarrod: Interesting, and [it] also opens up conversations. You brought up the guy that was being toxic, you had an hour-long conversation with him. You guys were able to delve into whatever was bothering him. And I think that’s also another way to have connections: you don’t know that person and, all of a sudden, you guys are having hour-long discussions.
Amr: Yeah, maybe I did have a good influence on his life. Maybe he ended up having a better day after that conversation which, if it was the case, I’d be very happy… It was a simple thing to do. But it’s all related to video games. So if you want to see the good side, it is there. It is definitely there.
Amr: It’s just like a grocery store. If you look for something, you’ll find it. If you don’t, you won’t.
My thanks to Amr El Meligy for this fantastic interview. To check out the first edition of the series, click here.