Video games are fun!
And we don’t need any studies to tell us that having fun is positive for our mental wellbeing. Particularly little casual games like angry birds or Temple Run provide us with short-term, immediate fun and plenty of positive emotional development.
Playing these quick mobile games also provides us with relaxation and reduces stress. They immediately regulate our moods and particularly for children and young adults this can be important in balancing overall mental wellbeing. Some people even credit video games to saving their lives as they overcome family problems, substance abuse, chemotherapy and other health problems.
How to use video games safely in schools.
Get these resources to introduce video games in your practice:
- Whole of School approach to being a ‘Safe Gaming School’
- Game development in the classroom resources
- All 16 worksheets/tools/factsheets to support teachers and wellbeing staff
- The Parent’s Workbook for Dealing with Gaming Issues
- All 14 tools/factsheets to give as resources to the families in your school.
- All 14 information factsheets in the Info Pack
- A license to use all the above resources with all families in your school
Download resources, tools and advice
For more research see
The Benefits of Playing Video Games, Isabela
Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels, 2014
‘The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self-help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial’, Sally N Merry, 2012
Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence, Judith Levine, 2013
Videogames and Wellbeing: A Comprehensive Review, Gaming Research Group, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre – Dr Daniel Johnson
Stress reduction / relaxation
Playing a quick game after a hard day at work or a tough day at school can do wonders. Video games can take your mind of the daily pressures and tribulations we all live with. Games relax us, putting us in a comfortable zone where for that brief moment in time we don’t have to think about real life. Nice! Just be careful you don’t use video games to ‘escape’ real life because that may lead to video game addiction.
So you might be in a bad mood or even an aggressive one even. Playing a video game can quickly regulate your mood and calm you down. As long as you don’t ignore the very thing that makes you angry, mood regulation is a good thing. It will make it easier to analyse the situation you’re dealing with and take the appropriate steps to deal with it. For children this could be very helpful in their emotional development.
Lots of young people in particular use video games as a way to express a view of life, an opinion or their emotions. This is possible through video game development by creating your own video game that tells your story or expresses your emotions. Video game development is getting more and more accessible for the masses and that is a great thing. A lot of people express themselves through video game art or video game-related culture.
Feelings of achievement
Playing video games is very rewarding. The developers use this technique as a way of keeping you hooked on the game. Receiving positive rewards, even if it is through an impersonal machine like a computer or tablet makes you feel good. Completing the levels within a game and ultimately the whole game gives you feelings of achievement, again beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
Identifying Mental Health issues through video games
Excessive video game playing can be a good indicator of the presence of a mental health issue. It is widely accepted that early intervention gives you the best chance of recovering from a mental health issue. Perhaps someone’s gaming behaviour can be an indicator of his or her mental wellbeing.
Treatment options using video games
Gamers often feel more comfortable in a game than they do in real life. We often speak to gamers and they feel like the game is a place where they feel accepted and where they are free from judgment – very much unlike the ‘real world’.
In therapy, this space can be used to connect to a person with mental health concerns as opposed to a one-on-one sit-down scenario which can be a confronting and uncomfortable situation for some people. Video games are already being designed and used as an alternative therapy for depression in young people. This therapy has proved to be as effective as traditional face-to-face counselling and may be more appropriate for some young people with mental health concerns.
Rebuilding social confidence by interacting in video games first
Gamers often credit their video game with reconnecting them to the community. They state that the game was a safe place to express themselves and interact socially at their pace. Online interactions are often quite basic. There is no body language, no eye contact and one can leave the conversation with one press of the button. Some will argue that only real social interactions are valuable. But perhaps for someone with social anxiety this controlled way of interacting is a good way of rebuilding confidence and skills in socialising.
All these opportunities point to the fact that video games could really benefit the players emotional development providing the right games are played in moderation.