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Nick Donarski
Video Games and Mental Health: A Perfect Match

Video Games and Mental Health: A Perfect Match

Video Games and Mental Health: A Perfect Match

These days, people are more stressed than ever before. Due to a combination of the global situation, changing life circumstances, and unforeseen factors outside their control, many people feel constantly overwhelmed by the burden of their daily lives. According to Gallup, a record percentage of people around the world report being sad, worried, or stressed. What are we to do in a world that is more consistently unhappy with itself?

Psychologists and other experts have suggested many simple activities that people can do to boost their happiness when they’re feeling down. However, the fascinating thing about these activities to support better mental health is that their common characteristics are a feeling of accomplishment and their ability to provide a moment to feel detached from real life. Few activities do both of these things better than playing video games, but few have seen the enormous benefits that video games can have for mental health.

How video games can help improve players’ mental health

The three core benefits of video gaming on mental health are mental stimulation, relaxation, and stress relief. Although some have criticized video games for their negative effects, 80% of gamers report experiencing these benefits on their demeanor — implying that critics’ reports are greatly exaggerated. The science backs it: gaming releases the rewarding neurotransmitter dopamine — the same argument critics use to claim gaming is addictive — but in moderation, video games can provide the boost in happiness that people are searching for.

Many people turn to fun activities, such as playing video games, to provide a distraction and release some steam from their troubles in the world. Although some critics have claimed that video games are “addictive” and can prevent someone from being productive in their day-to-day life, these claims are unsubstantiated. Indeed, relaxing activities such as playing games can help boost productivity by improving focus and increasing morale.

Although some people prefer video games that provide a feeling of total escapism — transporting them to an alternate world — others opt for games that take a more satirical approach to real-life issues. Satire in any form plays an important role in helping people become more aware of and cope with legitimate problems. The adage says “laughter is the best medicine,” and in the case of satire, laughter can help relieve someone’s stress caused by the negativity of the news and current events.

The psychological benefits of video games

One of the main benefits touted by proponents of video games is their ability to teach complex problem solving and teamwork skills. In many games, players work alongside other players or an AI to accomplish a mission or goal. These challenges often increase in difficulty as players progress through the game, providing gamers with an experience that can continue to enrich their minds for hours upon hours.

Accomplishing these goals can help improve players’ feelings of self-confidence and self-worth. For gamers, there are few feelings better than winning a game. Games can help increase a person’s desire to succeed, both within the real world and the game. On the opposite end of the spectrum, failure in games can help teach the quality of perseverance, as picking yourself back up after faltering can be rewarding.

Some games even stimulate players’ creativity and imagination, such as open-world games like Minecraft and the like. Additionally, the gaming industry is so fast-growing that there are several career paths within gaming, from game development and software engineering to e-sports and streaming. Gaming has the potential to boost morale among young people and provide them with greater motivation to exercise their creativity and pursue their passions.

For many gamers, their video games also serve as an important method of socialization and teaching them how to make meaningful connections with others. In the gaming world, players can form connections with people from around the world through the online communities that have formed around certain games. In games, teammates learn to work together and support each other, both qualities that can be important for a person’s success and help them feel better about themselves.

Using video games for a good purpose

Video games have been used for several years for positive applications, such as rehabilitation, therapeutic purposes, and grief management. As the storytelling in video games becomes much richer and more nuanced, games incorporate storylines that deal with more complex human emotions, such as grief. Engaging with these stories can help players better process their emotions in a time when they struggle to understand what they are going through.

Although playing a video game may seem like a simple, insignificant activity, many people don’t realize the greater positive impact it could have on their mind and mental health. By engaging players’ emotions and challenging them intellectually in ways that few other activities can, video games can provide genuine relief from the everyday real-world stresses we all face.

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