For those unfamiliar with Monster Hunter World, it is an Action RPG by Capcom released in 2018; it is available on multiple platforms and consoles. The Iceborne add-on expansion is now also available.
Here is the synopsis taken from the Playstation Store: Welcome to a new world! Take on the role of a hunter and slay ferocious monsters in a living, breathing ecosystem where you can use the landscape and its diverse inhabitants to get the upper hand. Hunt alone or in co-op with up to three other players, and use materials collected from fallen foes to craft new gear and take on even bigger, badder beasts!
Never have I invested some much time into one game. Spanning over two playthroughs and over 700 hours of game time Monster Hunter World helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life. I will always remember this period for the rest of my days and will forever be thankful. I am now going to share with you with 100% honesty …why Monster Hunter World saved my life.
Back in July 2018 I was staring at my massive backlog of games wondering what to start next. Work was getting more and more stressful and the Wife and I had just found out we were expecting our second child. Panic and anxiety set in due to a long, painful and multiple history of failed/complicated pregnancies so I felt I needed a distraction and a game I could lose myself in. I needed escapism and something to combat the paranoia of what may happen if history was going to repeat itself.
I’d heard about Monster Hunter World upon its release earlier that year but didn’t have a clue what it was about having not played any of the previous titles in its rich and successful history. I decided to You-tube some gameplay and thought to myself ‘Wow, this looks like it may be fun’ so I took the plunge and got a copy. I mentioned this to The Gibbon and he also expressed an interest as well and his brother had a copy which he had finished with so Boom…Co-op hunts with the best mate. Planned online play was always difficult for me due to working ridiculous amounts of hours and time restrictions AKA a 5 year old daughter. Nevertheless, Gibbon and myself managed to boot up and ‘The Ones Who Knock’ was born, two complete rookie clueless players in a two man squad. When we did manage to have some co-op sessions it was so enjoyable and managed many little jaunts including slaying of Anjanath’s, Tobi-Kadachi’s (also legging it at the sight of Diablos), Pukei-Pukei’s to name a few.
It didn’t take long to feel the pull of the game and my addiction began, every time I had some spare time the game was booted up quicker than a toupee in a hurricane. I spent hours outside of in game time planning armour sets, weapon upgrades and what grinds were needed to improve my Hunter. I planned how I was going to experiment with different weapons having started with the Long Sword, I wanted to be great at this game. My obsession grew even to the point I was having dreams about Monsters in the game attacking my place of work, it was getting ridiculous.
I worked long days and weeks, I played and cared for my daughter and pregnant wife yet all I could think about was laying some smack down on a Great Girros or Great Jagras. Due to lack of available and agreeable play time with Gibbon I began Solo-ing the game and grinded away. After about a month I had completed the main story line, I felt pleased of my achievement yet unfulfilled, there was still loads to do on this game and the story was just the tip of the iceberg. At this point my mental health although fragile was stable and things were all good with the Pregnancy, my self-esteem was still low but my head was definitely in a better place so I decided to take a mini break from MHW and play something else for a bit knowing full well I planned to come back to it soon. I really enjoyed playing other games (it helped that they were all amazing) these included: Life is Strange-Before the Storm, Spider-man and Battlefield V which tied me over until Christmas time.
I missed MHW a lot and whilst the break was nice I still had urges to shove the disc back into my PS4 and scratch that itch.
Building up to Christmas time was a time where I started to struggle again mentally, I was exhausted from work both physically and mentally. I struggled to sleep and my 5 year old daughter (who has never been the best sleeper) also didn’t sleep very well. I knew I was hitting a low point, tired of wearing the ‘I am Ok’ mask day and night, a front for my work team, my wife and daughter. I was starting to struggle and depression crept in and just got worse and worse. My unborn daughter was due in three more months and deserved better, my wife deserved better and my daughter deserved better. I hadn’t felt this way in many years and I just couldn’t switch off, constantly over-thinking, worrying and low dark thoughts- I needed to sort myself out. These thoughts scared me and the thoughts I had are ones I tend not to tell others about. Throughout my life I’ve always managed to self-care and deal with the ups and downs of depression but this time it was getting more and more difficult.
Christmas passed and it got to the point where I actually broke and hit rock bottom. Following a visit from my Senior Manager and taking his advice I took the plunge and visited the doctor, which was the first time in relation to mental health I did for many, many years. Although scared stiff I went to the doctors, had the usual chat and self-assessment test- my result was Anxiety: Severe Depression: Moderate. I was prescribed a type of antidepressants which I’d never tried before and was about to take tablets for the first time since my younger days. The doctor told me I was unfit for work and on the verge of a breakdown- I needed a break. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and even worse that I’d let down my Wife, Daughter, my unborn daughter and my work place. I was issued a two week GP note with a follow up appointment scheduled for within the second week. At this point my wife was still working and hadn’t started her maternity leave, my daughter was at school every day and I was alone a lot of the time. It’s a weird feeling when you never have much free/me time yet all of a sudden all day every day and nothing but. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was constantly thinking in my head and couldn’t stop so I had to always be doing something just to be able to distract myself. I read some books, watched some Movies, cleaned the house top to bottom and was always trying to keep busy.
“Other people’s opinions are like chains. They can pull you along, but they can also hold you down” – The Commander; Monster Hunter World
The thought entered my mind that I hadn’t been on MHW for quite a while so I inserted the disc, I wanted to see ‘if I’d still got it’ and maybe slay some monsters solo, it automatically felt comfortable. I remember the exact first quest that I did that day- 2 Gold Investigation of tempered Pukei-Pukei, admittingly I was rusty but managed it solo in sub 7 mins with a LBG. The quest ended and I noticed it was a Giant Gold Crown…my obsession with gold crowns commenced.
It actually dawned on me that maybe the Platinum trophy is achievable, albeit hours upon hours of grinding and pure RNG. I found myself ball deep in investigations, optional quests, answering SOS quests and was actually invited to join a squad of Asian players. I couldn’t tell you the name of the squad as I couldn’t read it, we met online at midnight nearly every night for about a week grinding away at quests and for monster parts. My Small and Giant crown tally grew massively which excited me the fact that maybe just maybe the Platinum is obtainable.
I unlocked and completed all optional quests, got all of the Pailco gadgets, captured all the pesky rare endemic life and had built some decent Meta sets. I had beat every monster in the game more than once, I had made most monsters my bitch including the Arch Tempered variants (except for AT Lunastra- that bitch can rot in hell). My obsession was back in full flow, My meds had kicked in and I felt like a complete Zombie most of the time. I was constantly zoning in and out and had to try hard to focus and concentrate on my surroundings, let alone function properly.
I played with my daughter after school time, I tried being the best father and husband I could be yet I knew I was dying inside. My scheduled doctor’s appointment soon arrived and following another discussion I completed another self-assessment- this time Anxiety Moderate, Depression Severe, my medication dose was increased and doubled again along with another GP note for a further two weeks. Part of me felt relieved in a way as I now didn’t have to face anyone other than my immediate family for two more weeks yet I felt ashamed I was not at work, not managing my team and my store. I’ve been with my employer for over 20 years and they’ve always been a great supportive company to work for but I still couldn’t help feel I’d let them down as well. I knew at this period of time I was rock bottom and hadn’t been this bad since my youth.
Every night after my wife and daughter had gone to sleep I went downstairs, I grabbed my joypad, booted up MHW and I sobbed, sometimes for what felt like hours. I have always been honest with people about my mental health issues yet this time I was afraid to tell those I was closest to how actually bad I was, my wife already heavily pregnant was already anxious and nervous about the birth so it would have been unfair of me to dump this on her as well. I continued playing Monster Hunter World, my distraction, my escape. I built Meta sets to die for, I ploughed AT Kulve Taroth more times than I can count earning every weapon type there was and its elemental type.
On the last week of my current GP note I knew Something had to give, I knew that it would take a degree of self-care and I knew I had to sort my shit out. I had to get my head right and push myself to be stable- I told myself I am returning to work regardless of what the doctor says. I needed to support my work team, my wife and daughter and even if it kills me I am returning. I went to the doctors, medication dose increased yet again and low and behold I was given another two week GP note. No word of a lie, the moment I left the doctor’s office I tore it up. I now had three days to prepare for my return to work.
My work team and senior manager were all supportive, my wife was a little apprehensive due to the amount of stress and pressure I would be returning to. Yet again MHW was my escapism in those last few days, I tried to relax as much as possible and block all thoughts running through my head. During my remaining days I mastered a few more weapons, 10 out of the 14 mastered (never could get hang of Hunting Horn, Gunlance, Lance or HBGs), at this point I had hit over 450 hours and I still wasn’t bored or felt any repetition.
My return to work was phased and it was difficult adjusting back into getting up at 4am, working long days, family time and just grabbing the joypad for an odd hour or so for MHW. Scans were still showing everything was good with the baby so yet more relief and my mind more at ease. As the weeks passed I stabilised and anxiety lifted and due to lack of time and pure tiredness my obsession with MHW weakened. I was still determined to achieve that Platinum and on the 5th April 2019 at 21:14 I joined the 1.2% of the Playstation community and achieved that magic ping! Yes I know it’s not on par with platting the likes of Dark Souls etc. but to this day it is still my proudest gaming achievement and trophy.
Over the following months I continued playing even though there were no trophies left to earn, at this point I had done everything so it was purely playing to help rookie/ low HR players. I grinded away for more elusive Attack Jewels…bloody RNG! My mental health went up and down during this time and my gaming time decreased considerably. It had reached the point where I had around 480 hours now so I tried to dabble in other games for a while. I still missed MHW, I missed that connection, that feeling of being completely lost in a game.
The months continued to pass and September 2019 arrived- Iceborne, the fantastic new expansion for MHW had landed. Due to work I didn’t get to start it straight away but was blown away yet again by its content. New monsters, new maps, new combat mechanics and moves, move set tweaks…I was excited as Gollum was with his precious.
Even for a seasoned veteran the jump to Master Rank was a steep learning curve, from being used to making Arch Tempered Elders on MHW look like Jagras it was challenging which was fantastic. It felt like a completely new game to learn and master and I felt like it was one I could immerse myself in yet again. Right from the off with the first few hunts of the Icy beasts Beotodus and Banbaro I knew it was going to be great and an enjoyable challenge. New mechanics like the clutch claw were pure genius and so much fun. People who know me well, knows full well ‘I don’t do stealth’ or defensive gameplay- I am reckless and gung-ho regardless, never have and never will- chuck me on an outpost on Farcry armed with just a knife and I’d take them all on.
The beautiful and amazing thing about Iceborne is it forced me to adapt to a new playstyle, a cautious patient playstyle which is something I didn’t think possible. I mean I still go out all (or swords) blazing but now this time I learned to time my attacks and when to attack and when to retreat. I mained the Great Sword for the Story on Iceborne and this helped this style of play no end due to its attack speed. I grinded post Iceborne story for the new Meta and the elusive Critical eye/boost level 4 jewels. My mental health continued to be up and down and at this point over the base game and the expansion I had hit over 600 hours.
The fantastic thing about Capcom and the MH developers is the fact they continually give its community free updates, whether this is monsters, variants, sieges or maps- hats off to them and that’s how you reward your community!
Christmas 2019 came and I knew I’d stop playing it again soon. My two babies were well with my eldest daughter doing exceptionally well at school, my new-born was perfect and my wife was still a fantastic mummy which brings me to the present where I still dabble and drop in for the odd hunt but I’m now playing (and thoroughly enjoying) the Witcher3 Wild Hunt.
In over 600 hours across MHW and Iceborne I can honestly say I never felt bored, never felt any repetition and why I hold this game in such high regard. I know full well my romance with this game is not over and I will return to it sooner rather than later…maybe try go for the Platinum.
I still miss that sense of achievement when finishing quests with new armours, weapons whether solo or as a part of a team. My mental health is still up and down yet nowhere near as bad and as rock bottom as it was a year ago. I seem to still struggle with enhanced side-effects from the medication such as sweats, forgetfulness, fatigue and I ache all over although that could be old age.
I believe MHW helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life and that’s why it will always be precious to me as sad as that sounds. I do not know what would have happened last year without it or how I would have gotten on when I was desperately trying to ‘Restore myself’ but MHW gave me that escapism I needed even if it was for a few hours a day. This experience shows that Gaming is not a waste of time and can help anyone when going through bad times.
I know I will be forever broken and the rest of my life will be full of ups and downs yet I am determined to help my two little girls achieve their dreams and not to end up like me, a sad, low on confidence, low esteem depressant.
Monster Hunter World was my Florence Nightingale, my bandage. Monster Hunter World could possibly have saved my Life.
Thanks for reading, Much Love,