Breaking up is hard to do, but video games can help. Here are five 2009 titles that'll get you through the five stages of grief.
The Kübler-Ross model of grief proposed in the 1969 book Death and Dying is actually a theory about dealing with death and terminal disease, both of which are way worse than just calling it quits with your special someone.
But breakups – even the mature, amicable kind where you know even before you split that you're going to be better off – still suck and sometimes you've got to let yourself go through the five stages in no particular order just to adjust.
1) Denial – Lord of the Rings: Conquest – "This can't be happening to me." Here's a game that's very good at denying that anything is wrong. It's got a blockbuster movie licence behind it, a dream team in development and publishing and the gameplay is based on the Star Wars: Battlefront series. Conquest had it all… so how could anything be wrong?
But no matter how many big-name characters are included from the book, sometimes you just have to face facts and move on.
2) Anger – Prototype – "It's not fair!" Life isn't fair – particularly when it gives you body-morphing, people-absorbing powers that send the whole US Government after you as a terrorist. But there's no time to be sad when they send in the helicopters and the tanks. Sometimes you just have to get mad and Prototype is the game to do it with.
Between flinging pedestrians into helicopters and elbow-dropping tanks, you'll get rid of a lot of bad feelings and find healthy ways to entertain those revenge fantasies about your ex. Way better than boiling bunnies.
3) Bargaining – The Sims 3 – "Just one more, hour, minute, whatever… please, just one more!" It's natural to feel like you could make things right if you just had a little more time or could do something with the departing loved one just one more time. But the reality is, no matter how many "just one more" times you get, there's always going to be more – more you want to do, more you want to say, more skills you need to raise before you can get that next job promotion.
In The Sims 3, you'll never run out of "just one more" things to do – one more trip to the mausoleum, one more Try for Baby, one more hour toward earning lifetime achievement points so you can buy the steel bladder perk. Maybe, eventually, it'll hit you that no matter what kind of deals you make inside your head, no matter how many ingredients you get for the Ambrosia recipe, sometimes it's just time to stop.
4) Depression – Bionic Commando – "I can't go on… it's just too sad." It's okay to be bummed when a long-term relationship ends. It's even more okay if the relationship ended against your wishes.
*Spoilers* It's especially okay to be bummed if the relationship ended against your wishes and your loved one winds up embedded in your arm. *End Spoilers*
Just sit back and ride out the angst with a good, long play through of a game that truly gets it when it comes to being sad.
5) Acceptance – Street Fighter IV – "You can't fight it. Just take it." The final stage of grief is sometimes the longest one coming – maybe even 12 years in coming. But as this game demonstrates, when this stage of grief finally arrives, it has improved graphics, flashier combos and is generally a better experience than you thought to hope for. Sure, everything feels a bit different and maybe you miss the way things were. But Street Fighter has moved on – why shouldn't you?
The bottom line is we all have different ways of coping with loss. Some are more effective than others, just like some games really are better than others. Whatever you choose to do to handle your feelings in the wake of a breakup, just make sure you're taking care of yourself.
And make sure you're playing on your own Xbox Live account because you cannot recover Gamerscore points earned on an account you shared with your ex.