Video games over recent years have often been linked with negativity in the media. You only need to look at arguably the most powerful man in the world blaming video games for recent school shootings, or the FortNite addiction sweeping the world. In our second deep dive looking at the link between technology and wellbeing, we’re understanding the benefits of how a pixelated world can be the escapism we need to improve our wellbeing.
Just like the rest of the technological world, video games have progressed a huge amount in the last couple of decades. I remember the first game I ever owned was Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Megadrive. Now, I’m strapping devices onto my face and fighting crime as if I’m actually Batman in Gotham. Even with this advancement in technology however, the principal of video games having a positive impact on our wellbeing remains the same, we’re simply more aware of it.
Research To Back This Up
The Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre over in Australia put together a fantastic research paper, which looked at over 200 pieces of research, searching for links between video games and wellbeing. There were many key findings in this, but the first key finding is that “There are many creative, social and emotional benefits from playing video games, including violent video games (Kutner and Olsen, 2008)”. Video games have also been linked to stress reduction and relaxation from various research sources. Playing video games has even been linked with providing positive emotional impact, healthy relationships and improving self-esteem. The evidence stacks up.
Video Games and Mental Health
Video games can also be a platform for mental health and wellbeing too. The video game Hellblade, where we play as the female character Senua, who suffers from psychosis, is one example. We travel through a hellish world with the main character, as we, along with her, struggle to understand what is real, and what is all in our minds. This fact that this game even exists is a step in the right direction for simply raising awareness of mental health issues.
Not only are we seeing games incorporate mental health into their narrative, but we’re also seeing real world advertising for mental health and wellbeing in games too. In the first of it’s kind, the NHS launched an advertising campaign within Football Manager 2018 to promote MindMates, which looks to aid young people with understanding and tackling (football pun), mental health and wellbeing. This isn’t the first time Football Manager has been used to advertise mental health either, the charity Movember have advertised within the game also.
The recent introduction of VR not only creates a new level of immersion and escapism, but also opens up the gaming world for a much wider audience. You don’t need nimble thumbs and fingers, or to be pro at the latest first person shooter, you just need your own two eyes and creativity. One example of this is Allumette, a story that unfolds in front of you, as you look on from a giants perspective. It’s a beautiful experience, and something my wife still talks about when we mention VR to anyone. My wife, not being a gamer. Aside from Cuphead. She loves Cuphead.
Me and Video Games
My own experience of playing video games for my wellbeing was actually quite the shock. I’m a fairly keen gamer, and I’ve been gaming for most of my life. I’m also quite vocal while playing my games! The surprise actually came from my FitBit analysis. My resting heart rate is around 58 beats per minute, and while playing something like Halo multiplayer, a fast paced stress inducing shooter, my heart rate was around the 58 beats per minute mark. Me and my wife couldn’t believe it! Something that on the outside appears to fire me up and get me excited, actually caused my heart to relax and beat happily away at my resting heart rate.
But I also play games for escapism, just like someone may read a book, or watch Netflix, it’s a way to forget the pressures of our day to day lives, and focus solely on making it all the way to a Victory Royal.
There is no doubt that video games have many positive impacts on our mental health and wellbeing, the research suggests that. That’s not to say there aren’t negatives either. Search hard enough on the internet and you’ll find something that backs up your argument, whatever it is… From what I could see, there is by far more positive findings then negative. For me, I forget all about my worries, pressures and anxieties, and focus solely on the story and events unfolding in front of my eyes. Video gaming is a wonderful thing, and something we should embrace as a tool to aid our mental health and wellbeing.