Guest Post Written by Arturo Osorio
For years, video games were seen as a waste of time or even a tool to encourage violence among youth. But now, we’re learning they can be a tool for good. A recent Microsoft study showed that video games helped those who were struggling with mental health disorders during the pandemic.
- About 84 percent of respondents said that gaming had positively impacted mental health.
- 71 percent said it helped them feel less isolated.
But gaming isn’t relegated to the realm of the pandemic. There’s a lot of evidence that video games could be generally good for those who are struggling with mental health issues.
Gaming for Happiness and Depression Relief
The University of Oxford analyzed two popular games: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. Playing these games correlated with people saying they were happier. Of course, this only showed that these particular games (relaxing, casual games) could improve happiness. Other types of games have yet to be studied for their effects on mental health.
It could be that people who enjoy these types of games and play them more often could use them to alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety. Because games can deliver shots of dopamine into a person’s system, they can make people feel happier and more accomplished. As with anything, it’s a double-edged sword. It can also substitute natural feelings of productivity. When you’re playing video games, you’re not focusing on work, chores, or other commitments.
Socialization and Video Games
The American Psychological Association reported that video games may be able to improve social outcomes, learning outcomes, and general health. Children may develop spatial skills and learn empathy and connectivity with others. Complex games such as adventure games may develop problem-solving skills, while role-playing games might help develop empathy. Even first-person shooters can help children develop their fine motor skills and reaction times. All in all, video games have a positive impact on these developmental categories.
Autism, ADHD, and Video Games
Video games have also been studied for positive effects on non-neurotypical individuals. There are “prescription video games” for children with ADHD that are designed to teach them to focus and direct their activities. Children with autism can use video games to explore social skills, get used to making mistakes, develop motor skills, and learn flexibility.
Those who are struggling with depression or anxiety may find that video games are exactly what they need. While video games have been more frequently studied for adverse effects (such as their correlation to depression or a lack of productivity), it is now emerging that they can be positive as well.
But that doesn’t mean that a professional shouldn’t be consulted. Those who are experiencing mental health disorders should discuss them with their professionals and inquire as to whether video games may be a good solution. And it may be specific video games that are helpful rather than video games in general.
news.microsoft.com – How Gaming Can Play a Positive Role in Mental Health
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Video Gaming is Up During the Pandemic
cnn.com – Video Games May Make You Happier, Study Finds
brainandlife.org – How Do Video Games Affect the Developing Brains of Children?
apa.org – Video Game Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds
aane.org – Video Games Benefit Students with Special Needs