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A Video Game State of Mind

15 Oct 2020

How gaming can benefit your mental health

When thinking of activities that boost your mental health, playing video games is probably not on your list with long forest walks and meditating to mystical music.

In fact, video games have long been accused of harming mental health and encouraging violent behavior and social isolation. However, scientific studies would beg to differ. More studies are published every year showing that the positive effects of playing video games on physical and mental health far outweigh any minimal negative effects they may have.

How are video games good for mental health?

Video games in their simplest form are a type of interactive entertainment media. They allow people to become much more involved in their stories and worlds than books or movies do and utilize more areas of the human brain when being played than when partaking in more passive media. Playing video games benefits mental health by creating situations for players to experience positive emotions, by aiding players with their personal self-improvement, supporting and boosting social lives, and improving brain health.

They make you happy

Being a form of entertainment, it’s not difficult to understand why video games can so easily  result in positive emotions and a release of endorphins. Video games are simply fun. They allow people to take a break from their real lives, offering relief from stress. Video games also bring enjoyment by offering the opportunity to experience adventures that would be out of reach otherwise, such as being a warrior in medieval times or a detective hunting for answers. These positive effects make video games a useful tool to maintain mental health through difficult times and even help people with depression, as long as they are played in moderation.

They help you grow

Another way that video games result in positive emotions is by offering the satisfaction of accomplishment and of having things under control, feelings that may not always be easily attainable in real life. In-game accomplishments can build the framework for confidence and emotional resilience in the real world. Other ways that video games aid in personal self-improvement are by training patience, creating a safe place to practice managing feelings of anxiety, and studies have shown that they can even aid in developing emotional intelligence.

They connect you

In terms of social development, it has been long known that online multiplayer games give players the opportunity to develop their social skills and create meaningful social bonds with strangers that often result in long-term friendships and even marriages. Communities form around game titles that give players a sense of belonging and a group of people to talk to that they already have something in common with. These communities can help to fight loneliness and can make socialization easier for those with social anxiety. Games which allow for the creation of guilds or teams, give players the opportunity to develop teamwork and leadership skills which can boost confidence and be useful in real life situations. Beyond forming new social bonds, playing video games can also help to strengthen and maintain relationships with friends and significant others by offering a meaningful, interactive group activity that tests—but as a result, strengthens your ability to work as a team.

They keep you young

Finally, playing video games helps to maintain overall brain health. Gaming uses more areas of the brain than more passive types of entertainment such as watching movies. Studies have shown that playing regularly can help to slow aging by providing a way to ‘exercise’ all these areas of the brain and keep them active, as well as improve focus, and cognition, all factors that contribute to overall mental health.

The COVID Test

The current Coronavirus pandemic has created a situation that has brought the many positive benefits of playing video games to light and given even non-gamers the chance to experience them. In early 2020, when many people were suddenly thrust into a new reality of being on lockdown and socially isolated, video games came to the rescue. Not only were video games an enjoyable distraction to relieve the stress of such uncertain times, they also offered an easy way for people to transition their social lives online. 

The perfectly-timed release of Animal Crossings: New Horizons created a platform on which people could still meet with their friends, visit their personal islands, and even hold weddings that had been canceled due to the pandemic. Tabletop Simulator allowed weekly board game nights to continue uninterrupted, and simple group games like Among Us became popular with gamers and non-gamers alike as a fun way to hang out even if far apart. At the same time, games like Breath of the Wild, Firewatch, and Red Dead Redemption were a good way for people to substitute the more common mental health practice of taking a long walk through nature and even going hiking when lockdown made such activities impossible.

Coronavirus put a lot of eyes on the video game industry as it broke records while other entertainment industries were failing. This surge in gaming resulted in numerous studies documenting the positive effects video games were having on mental health during such a difficult time. Hopefully, the role that video games played during the pandemic will help to shift the public’s opinion on video games for the better and result in them being utilized even more to help people maintain their mental health.

Getting Personal

The All in! Games team has a lot of experience playing video games. They’ve played games through good times and bad. What better way to show the positive impacts of video games than sharing their testimonials? 

To wrap up, here are a few of our team member’s experiences of video games helping them get through difficult times:

Like many, I’ve found my favourite games to be a great comfort during this year’s Covid lockdowns. Revisiting familiar settings while the real world becomes increasingly alien can be super reassuring, whether it’s the sleepy grounds of Blackwell Academy (Life is Strange), the troll-splattered cliffs of the Reach (Skyrim), or even those damn Valkyrie chambers in God of War. Some things never change, and sometimes that’s really nice to know!

—Ellie Ball, AiG Brand Manager

Video games helped me get through times in my life when I felt lonely, especially during adolescence. Immersing myself into the worlds of games like Dragon Age and the Elder Scrolls series allowed me to forget about my sorrows and stress. However, video games didn’t make me forget about the real world, they helped me to relax and face it.” 

—Paweł Czachor, AiG Contract Specialist

I find video games to be a great way to relieve stress that gathers over time. Simulation games that require little strategizing are especially relaxing. When driving an 18-wheeler in Euro Truck Simulator 2, without having to be intensely focused, I can enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment, because I’m driving somewhere with a purpose and completing missions. Playing such games is like wrapping my mind in a cozy blanket.

—Anonymous AiG Employee

Video games always make me feel better when I’m down because they give me a way to go on grand adventures and interact with worlds that before, were limited to the confines of my mind. Instead of just dreaming of an underwater world, I can spend all day underwater in Subnautica, looking for new species and alien relics. In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I’ve finally had the chance to master the art of the lightsaber and explore beautiful, wild planets in a galaxy far, far away. Being able to escape to these idyllic worlds really helps me get through the dark and dreary winter months.” 

—Karolina Sanchewska, AiG Copywriter

So next time you need a mental health day and you’re tired of trying meditation, you know what to do. Get some good snacks, a cozy blanket, and get lost in a great game. 🙂

If you want to read more about Coronavirus and the video game industry read [*Coronavirus*] has joined the chat… on our blog.

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