Last year I listened to a podcast which opened my mind up to video gaming. Previously something I had no interest in and only associated with a way to pass time, I have now found all these super amazing benefits to gaming which I want to share with you all!
They can improve mental health
30 minutes a day of playing online games has scientifically (1) out-performed pharmaceutical drugs for treatment of clinical depression and anxiety. It boosts mood and increases happiness. It can also treat symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.
Playing Tetris for example within 24 hours of a traumatic event can heavily reduce symptoms such as flashbacks because the mind remembers the Tetris patterns instead of the event itself.
It encourages you to look at challenges and failures as opportunities for growth. It increases curiosity, creativity, spacial intelligence, determination, life meaning and self confidence (sense of being able to achieve anything in life through completing game missions) optimism, productivity and decision making.
2. They can improve relationships
After playing team games, we are more likely to reach out to others. If we play with friends or family in the same room our connection with that person grows whether we are playing in the same team; learning how to work together, or even playing against that person, getting to know them better so that we can defeat them. It stimulates mind, heart and breath syncronisation. If we play online with PEOPLE WE KNOW this can have the same benefits. It increases trust, compassion, team working abilities, cooperation and relationship building. (Note that playing against strangers does not help this).
3. They are creating a better world
Game producers have created environments to bring together great minds to solve real world problems through gaming. Examples include:
- Superstruct: a game where there is only 23 years left of human survival and players must find new forms of energy, food, health and security. 8,000 people played this game and they came up with 500 new amazing ideas that can be implemented in the real world.
- World without oil: an adventure game set up to emulate a genuine oil shortage. Players must figure out how to survive
4. They provide post traumatic stress growth (without the stress)
We have all heard of PTSD but what about the positives that come from horrific events in life? Bad life events provide us with understanding, meaning and purpose, focus and willpower. In life we all seek these benefits. We choose to take on difficult challenges such as marathons, having children or embarking on spiritual journeys. The benefits from these are called post ecstatic growth. Gaming challenges open up a way to gain these benefits without the having to endure a traumatic event.
Superbetter is a game/app invented by gaming expert Jane McGonigal to help gamers overcome challenges, beat depression and anxiety, learn new habits or skills and improve relationships. Features include:
- Powerups: small things you can do to gain a positive feeling such as listening to your favourite song, spending time with your pet. For every negative emotion we need 3 positive to avoid a downward spiral. Doing 3 powerups a day increases your physical and mental resilience.
- Quests: this is an opportunity to set a goal e.g. lose weight, beat depression. The aim is to complete 3 quest steps each day towards your goal. This gives meaning and purpose, confidence, productivity and commitment.
- Allies: friends and family who will hep you on your quests. This improves relationships and positivity.
- Bad guys: identifying what gets in the way of progress and tackling them head on, improving resilience and optimism.
Some quick practical facts:
People who regularly boost emotional, physical, mental and social resilience live 10 years longer
Playing 20 minutes of games such as Superbetter, Call of Duty or Mindcraft can achieve the above. Even playing for just 30 days has permanent long-term benefits through re-wiring your mind
Re: mission: a game for cancer patients shown to improve optimism, feelings of empowerment, better pill-taking (80% of re-occurrence is due to pill- missing)
Note: Negative impacts of gaming only start to show when you exceed 21 hours / week or 3 hours/ day and should not just be used as a form of escapism. Intense action games should be played before and not after revision otherwise the revised information is blocked by the visual stimuli of the game before an exam. There is an extremely low risk of side effects and games can be used along-side other forms of therapy.
1: GREENVILLE, N.C. and SEATTLE (Feb. 16, 2011) East Carolina University