How Street Fighter’s Ryu Helped Save My Life

I’ve never written as personal a story as this before. And in many ways I don’t know where to begin. Save to say that in my past I suffered from depression on and off for some time. The worst was several years ago, I time that I honestly never thought I would get through.

I won’t go into the causes of my depression simply because it involves other people and I don’t feel the right to share other people’s private matter.

What I can say is that going through depression was the most challenging and most painful experience in my 31 years. Depression is like a nightmare. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you’re always tired, you find it hard talking to anybody–even the people closest to you–and you experience things that you find hard to remind yourself of, let alone to speak publicly about.

There’s a good chance that either you, the person reading this page, or someone close to you has suffered from depression at some time in life. And if you have suffered and overcome depression, you probably know that what gets your through is something personal, something that matters to you, something that inspires you.

For me, one of the leading sources of inspiration that helped me overcome depression was a game I’ve always been a huge fan of, and a character I feel a great affinity to: Street Fighter and Ryu.

Ryu, of course, is one of the most popular characters to have ever come from gaming. There’s something timeless and near spiritual about Ryu. His quest to keep on going, to keep journeying his lonely way through life, to fight each battle one day at a time and survive, is something I feel we can all sympathise with.

For me, when I was at my worst, I played Street Fighter for about 6 hours a day, always as Ryu. Somehow, playing Street Fighter as Ryu and going from one fight to the next, gave me motivation to keep on going myself. It’s funny to think that a video game can do that, but they can. Street Fighter did that for me and other games do the same for other people too.

There’s an emotional connection we get from a games character, something that lasts with us. It doesn’t matter whether the character and game you feel most passionately about are Ryu and Street Fighter. . . they could be any game and any character.

Games characters mean different things to every one of us. But looking around the internet, seeing the sheer amount of times that a game character appears on Facebook / Twitter and elsewhere, there can be little doubt that a games character is more than just a bunch of polygons: they’re a symbol.

For me, Ryu was a symbol of survival and hope. In fact, in many ways he was a role model. Perhaps without Ryu I never would have considered spirituality (something I’m keen on now) and meditation (Ryu is constantly being shown meditating and it might not just be a coincidence that as a Ryu player I’ve been meditating for years–which has been the main cure for me–and even have a blog on Meditation).

To gamers, as you probably know, a character can become so much more than fiction. They can become something inspiring, something genuinely life transforming. For me, Ryu helped me get through (sincerest thanks, Capcom), and I know I’m not alone when I say that games have the power to change us all, and for the better.

So, thanks for reading this. I hope in some way it’s helped you to think about what a game character (and a game in general) means to you. Because, let’s be honest, this is about so much more than just gaming.



Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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