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The Therapeutic Power of Video Games

In today’s fast-paced and often stressful world, finding effective ways to prioritize our mental health and well-being is not only important, it’s necessary! 

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While video games are often associated with entertainment and leisure, they also possess a remarkable potential for therapeutic benefits. In this post, we’ll delve into the restorative power of video games, exploring how they can positively impact our mental health, enhance emotional well-being, and foster personal growth.

Before we get into all of the therapeutic powers of video games, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more insights on games for impact. Be sure to bookmark this post so you can return to it when you need to destress!

Stress Reduction and Emotional Regulation

Along with other media like books and movies, video games have the ability to transport us to different settings and worlds, offering a temporary escape from the challenges and pressures of everyday life. Engaging in gameplay can serve as a form of stress relief, allowing individuals to unwind, relax, and recharge. The immersive nature of video games enables players to disconnect from their worries and focus on captivating virtual experiences. A 2020 Oxford study even found that video games may positively impact the overall happiness of players

According to WebMD, achieving goals in games brings players a sense of accomplishment, enhancing their overall well-being. They can also help players develop emotional resilience by teaching individuals how to cope with failure and keep trying

In fact, there are even video games that are specifically designed to support emotional regulation. Games that incorporate elements of mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation techniques can help players manage anxiety, reduce stress levels, and develop healthier coping strategies. 

As educational game developers, we’re created several games specifically designed to support mental health and emotional regulation, such as the Healthy Minds Measures App, which is used to assess the well-being of high school students, and Serein, a Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy adventure to treat stress and anxiety in cancer patients. By providing a safe and controlled environment, these games offer individuals the time and space to reflect on how they’re feeling.

Social Connection and Community

But that’s not where the therapeutic benefits of games end. Contrary to the misconception that video games isolate individuals, modern gaming experiences have evolved to foster social connections and create vibrant communities. Online multiplayer games allow players to collaborate, compete, and interact with others from around the world. These shared experiences can cultivate a sense of camaraderie and belonging, reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

For Devon Taylor, Vice President of 21GRAMS, gaming had a positive impact on her postpartum experience. In this article for Real Chemistry, Taylor details her personal experience of using video games as a therapeutic tool during her postpartum anxiety. She shares how gaming helped her cope with anxiety during breastfeeding and how it provided a way to self-soothe as a young mother. Taylor also highlights the sense of community she found through gaming by connecting with other moms who had gone through similar experiences. Video games can provide the socialization people need to keep their minds healthy and happy – especially those that tend to lead more secluded lives, like new parents or older adults. 

For example, extensive research has highlighted the numerous benefits gaming offers to older adults, including improving older players’ emotional well-being. Xbox’s “Beyond Generations” campaign, for instance, exemplifies the connectivity of gaming, no matter the player’s age.

While video games can’t replace face-to-face interaction, there’s evidence to show that gaming networks have positive effects on mental health, especially for those willing to reach out and initiate online conversations. A recent study conducted by researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of North Carolina, and Baylor University explored the impact of social support, sense of community, and depressive symptoms on social connections within an online gaming site. Using social network analysis, researchers examined the social structure of an online football simulation gaming site. 

They found that when players received more support from others in the game and less support in real life, they were more likely to reach out and talk to other players. Additionally, players who spent more time on the site were more likely to connect with others. Those who felt a sense of community and valued being part of the game site were more likely to connect with others and have conversations about real-life issues. Overall, this study highlights the importance of social connections, and the need for more research on the relationship between mental health, social support, and online gaming. 

Therapeutic Applications, Healing, and Access

Finally, the therapeutic potential of video games goes beyond personal well-being and has found its way into professional settings. In fields such as physical rehabilitation, mental health treatment, and occupational therapy, games are increasingly being used as a valuable tool. These game-based interventions can motivate patients and make therapy sessions more interactive and enjoyable.

Video games can aid those with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD. For example, EndeavorRx is an FDA-approved digital prescription treatment for children with ADHD. The game is designed to improve attention function in children aged 8-12 years old. We’re proud to say that we had a hand in this cutting-edge project; Filament collaborated with EndeavorRx’s creators, Akili, to create content for the EndeavorRx ecosystem!

In addition to providing new types of mental health care, video games can also increase patient access to mental health care. A new paper published in the journal JMIR Serious Games suggests that video games have the potential to provide affordable and stigma-free mental health treatment globally. Researchers examined previous studies investigating how commercial video games affect depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. 

The results suggest that video games can have a positive impact on mental well-being, especially for people who face barriers to accessing other forms of treatment due to financial constraints or limited availability in their area. Unlike traditional care which can be costly and infrequent, video games offer greater accessibility as patients can play them at home, at any time. This ease of use can make a significant difference in reaching individuals who might otherwise struggle to receive adequate support.

Video games have power that extends beyond mere entertainment. Through stress reduction, social connection, and therapeutic applications, they have the potential to impact our mental health positively. By leveraging the unique qualities of video games, we can harness their potential to create impactful experiences that contribute to our overall well-being and to the well-being of those around us! 

Interested in creating a meaningful educational video game? You’re in the right place! Contact us today.

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