It’s no secret that the gaming community provides a haven for many, to enjoy some stress-free time amongst friends and tight-knit communities. These claims have led to thorough testing from prestigious universities like Oxford, who claim “video games are good for our mental well being”. If you’re a gamer yourself, you know first-hand how joining a game with friends positively affects your mental health and provides the much needed unwind towards the end of a stressful day. As quarantine is preventing us from being within physical distance of each other, it’s essential to discover new ways to stay connected.
As well as being a stress reliever, gaming has proven to be good for the brain. Many gamers set challenges amongst themselves, which creates a highly engaged community who all compete to be the best. With a staggering two billion gamers worldwide, gaming occupies many different sectors, from elite e-sport professionals to casual mobile gamers. Engaging in these social gaming experiences, aids the social distancing side of lockdown, helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus. However, this movement isn’t just backed by leading universities. It’s also supported by the World Health Organisation, who’ve recently encouraged people to engage with more video game content in a movement to create unification around the world. However, even the World Health Organisation has previously associated video games with “disorders”, which has now completely changed.
There’s numerous misconception surrounding online gaming, and that’s the fact it’s for children. However, recent studies highlight that the average age of players is 35. With massive games like Fortnite taking over the online gaming world, it brings controversy over whether adults should be taking part. However, games like these steer away from the more ‘serious’ gaming, and they provide a fun way to engage with friends and unwind.
Video gaming is great for mental health, due to the core mechanics not requiring players to be ‘highly skilled’ to gain some form of benefit. Many different games offer a system called ‘skill-based matchmaking’, which places other players of a similar skill level with you. Gaming provides the player with the widely known rush of ‘dopamine’, which is a neurological change within the brain, making the person feel great! Many of the worlds leading neuroscientists refer to this rush as the “reward system for the brain”. Dopamine is an essential part of life, and it’s the indicator used by the brain to create the urge/desire to repeat a specific behaviour.
The social benefits of gaming
During these testing times, video games have become much more social, with over 70% of total gamers reporting playing with another person/friend. The team play is strengthening communities within the gaming world, ensuring nobody is truly alone in this massive and immersive platform, and it allows people to meet people and make new friends from all over the world. Most online games now encourage team co-operation, with games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and Call of Duty Warzone, featuring group battle-royale style core elements, which means it’s best to find a group of people to play with. The vital team-based elements force people to develop strong social skill-set and healthy prosocial behaviour that is highly likely to influence the person beyond the gaming environment. Scientists carried out studies to prove that children who show play prosocial games at the start of a school year are more likely to project this behaviour throughout the rest of the year.
Video gaming is one of the only environments where the average player can connect with their idols (the professional streamers), who’re the celebrities of the gaming world. Platforms like Twitch allow these amateur players to watch their favourite gamers live whilst giving them the option to provide feedback and support. Twitch, the streaming software for gamers has now become more popular than Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and even HBO combined. On the other hand, some studies have entirely dispelled the common misconception that violent video games lead to real-life violent behaviour. This topic has been discussed and debated for many years now, and there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that real-life violence derives from violent video games, which comes as a huge relief to parents.
Video games enhance daily performance
The Esports science research lab over at Lero has conducted some critical research to show that video gaming enhances cognitive function, as the brain requires core skills to learn, focus and remember. This is true for games such as Apex Legends, Call of Duty and Leauge of Legends, which are all categorised as ‘Action’ video games. People who play these kinds of games have been proven to have enhanced functionality in areas like, attention and focus, memory, processing of information and task-switching cognitive abilities. Research shows that non-gamers can be trained using action video games, which has a chance to improve their cognitive performance, which is something people have been speculating for years. The studies have also been tested on people within the age ranges of 60-77. The training benefits have lasted over an extended period. The studies showed that the people who were as old as 77 years of age, could play an elaborate video for as little as two weeks and see improvements in cognitive function, which leads to positive mental health benefits.
The effects of video games on mental health
Playing video games is now often associated with the promotion of positive emotions, along with excellent social functioning and positive functioning in general. During these times, it’s essential to do everything in our power to stay focused and look after our mental health. However don’t worry, you don’t need to engage in highly competitive skill-based games, as you can achieve the same results through games like Angry Birds. These effects significantly impact those who suffer from depression, and it helps to lower levels of overall stress.
The current pandemic has uncertainty in almost every single house-hold worldwide, as we’ve been forced to stay in-doors with limited allowance to shop and engage in social activity. Having video games available to absolutely everyone helps people to become immersed, relieving them from everyday stresses, even if this is for a short period. Gaming is now encouraged by some of the worlds leading health organisations such as WHO (World Health Organisation), due to these proven health benefits.