Original Story

Minding your Mood, by making Time for Mario Kart

University is an exciting time of any young person’s life. You make new friends, learn new skills, and gain new experience, and you come out the other side with a degree as you enter a new stage of your life. However, having to balance studying, socialising, and taking time to yourself can make university life more stressful than it might appear at first. And these days, more and more students will suffer from mental health challenges during their time at university.

Thankfully, Ulster University has several support services in place to help students in whatever way they can. For students living in on-campus accommodation, the res life teams are always on hand to help. The Student’s Union is always running events and activities as part of their ‘Mind Your Mood’ campaign, to ensure there are ways for all students to feel connected and engage with others. Wellbeing services are also easily accessible across all campus, with a simple drop-in system and further assistance where and when required. However, a really simple way for students to look after their mental health, and to simply unwind after classes is to have something that they enjoy. And for Matthew, Mark and Dave, that something is playing Mario Kart together.

Matty, Mark and Dave enjoying a game of Mario kart

Mario Kart is a simple yet addictive game. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and surprisingly difficult to master, all compounded in the simple objective; to win the race. No matter what kind of a day you’ve had at university, you can just come home, and take a bit of time to get lost in the racing, to not stress about coursework or exams, and to just spend some time with your housemates. Matthew, Mark and Dave are all in their final year of university, and Mark explained “There’s a lot more pressure, not just on the course you’re in, but also thinking ahead and what you’re going to do when you graduate. It’s good to sometimes not worry about that.”

A mix of emotions after an intense race

As Mark said, any final year university student will be able to tell you just how much time and effort is required for your studies. Because of this, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and stressed, especially coming to the end of a semester. But, as Mark went on to explain, “Mario kart is just such an easy way to laugh and destress, spend time with people around you, who know what you’re going through. And it’s very important for mental health to do that.” Matthew also talked about how the game can be funny, “It’s unpredictable, and it’s also funny, so it means we can have a good laugh about it as well.” The Mario brand is also something that contributes to Matthew’s enjoyment of the game, “It’s something about it, I think there is a little bit of nostalgia attached to it, because it’s a little bit of a throwback to childhood.”

When asked about what Mario Kart means to him, Dave commented “Mario kart isn’t just the representation of the game, it’s more of the fact that we can take 15, 20 minutes and just sit as housemates and do something together, because we’re all very busy and we have different things on every evening.” Dave also mentioned how he thinks everyone should have a way to relieve stress after a busy day at university, “If you just build up on stress and things like that, it’s not good, you’re not as productive.”

Stress is something that all students will have to deal at some point during their university degree, but it’s how you deal with stress that matters. Bottling it all up, and hiding yourself away from people will only make things worse. But having friends or housemates to chat to and just be with, even over a race of Mario Kart, is just one simple way of taking better care of your mental health.

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