PAX East 2023 Spotlight: Author of The Psychology of Zelda Wants to Reshape Cultural Understanding of Video Games
Posted on March 27 2023 by David Lasby
While so much of PAX East was about games, developers, networking, and just having fun, the moment I found most moving was an impromptu conversation I had with Dr. Anthony M. Bean, author of The Psychology of The Legend of Zelda, The Psychology of Final Fantasy, and Working with Video Gamers and Games in Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide.
I was wandering through the shopping section of PAX East, and I came across a booth run by Geek Therapeutics. I stopped because the philosophy book on Zelda caught my eye; I had read the book several years back and seeing it brought a smile to my face. Then another book offering captured my attention—Integrating Geek Culture Into Therapeutic Practice: The Clinician’s Guide to Geek Therapy.
My wife is a trauma psychologist, and for the past fifteen years, I’ve had an up-close view of therapy, treatment, and clinical practice. I’m also a lifelong gamer and participant in therapy for the past twenty years. It’s rare that these disparate aspects of my world collide, and when they do, I pay attention.
When I purchased the book, the vendor offered to have the author sign the book. And immediately asked if I could interview him, and moments later I was sitting down with Dr. Anthony M. Bean. Not surprisingly, Dr. Bean is a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda and video games in general.
The video games he played during his formative years taught him many lessons about life, both how to engage with the external world and how to develop internally. “Games like The Legend of Zelda teach us to grow and understand ourselves. Just like the puzzles in the dungeons,” Dr. Bean explained. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What am I missing? What tools do I need in this moment?’ That way of thinking is a good approach to the problems we face in life.”
In college, Dr. Bean created a 250-member DDR club, which he said brought a lot of people together and created a deep sense of community. He knew going forward that he wanted to do something with video games and culture. He went on to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Criminology, while regularly researching video games from the age of 18 on.
Dr. Bean saw a clear need for increased access to mental health care within “geek culture,” and a need for the transformational and healing power of games within mainstream culture. He worked for several non-profits before eventually starting his own in Texas to help equip therapists to understand “geek culture” and to engage with it therapeutically.
Another frustration Dr. Bean encountered was the gate-keeping of major publishing houses. Recognizing that he and those of similar minds had something real to offer the world, he wanted to publish books to reshape cultural understanding of video games, to articulate the powerful art form the medium has become, and to assist community professionals, clinicians, and volunteers to engage in “geek culture.”
When the frustration with publishers became too much, Dr. Bean started his own publishing and printing company. Leyline Publishing has enjoyed explosive growth in just two years, giving a platform to critical voices within the gaming community and to those voices withing “geek culture” often marginalized by major publishing houses.
In closing the interview, I asked Dr. Bean if he could make sure people understood at least one thing about video games and “geek culture,” what would it be? His response: “Video games have a narrative experience that creates the heroic journey inside of us. Even when we put the game down and walk away, the game is always interacting with us, changing us even after we shut it off.”
Tell us what you think! Have you read any of Dr. Anthony M. Bean’s books? Share your reactions in the comments below.
Source: Geek Therapeutics, Dr. Bean
This article was originally published on Boss Rush Network and is collaboratively published on Zelda Dungeon by the permission of the author.
I’m a life-long fan of video games and have been playing since I got my NES in the 1980s. The Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Aliens, and Halo are some of my favorite game franchises. I write for several sites, including Zelda Dungeon, Boss Rush Network, and The Mighty. Find me on Twitter to check out my other content!