The impacts video games have on players have long been debated by fans, creators, scientists, and even politicians – but their benefits have been highlighted in a recent paper by researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software.
The paper focuses on addressing symptoms of depression and anxiety in particular, with the team citing existing research to suggest that commercial video games could be ‘inexpensive, readily accessible, internationally available, effective, and stigma-free resources’ to help tackle such mental issues.
Depression and anxiety disorders are also the most prevalent mental health disorders among the general public, as per research, with 264 million people and 284 million people, respectively, undesirably impacted.
While a significant chunk of those affected does not receive treatment, the researchers remark that it is ‘imperative’ to ‘effectively disseminate treatment’, suggesting video games may be a way to tackle this.
Citing a handful of studies, researchers present findings that certain video games helped decrease depressive moods by ‘promoting enjoyment, flow states, and motivation,’ tackle general anxiety ‘both immediately after play and maintained with continual play,’ and help players cope ‘with strong emotions and regulating strong emotive experiences.’
Evidence also showed video games help to evoke emotions of joy, happiness, appreciation, and social connectedness. As the study explains, ‘Given the abovementioned links and accepting that the pandemic has entailed less movement and social restrictions, commercially available web-based multiplayer games might be a potentially viable tool to connect isolated individuals.’
The team at Lero concluded that commercial video games are an ‘invaluable means of reaching individuals with mental health disorders,’ no matter their age or gender, as well as a ‘potential alternative for the improvement of various aspects of mental health globally.’