The Impact of Video Games

Meme style graphic with Dwight Schrute from the office in the background at the top "VIdeo games are bad for your mental " at the bottom it says FALSE "Playing video games can have numerous benefits to your mental health"

The biased negative view on the impact of video games on psychological wellbeing has been propagated for so long that it is often referred to as fact. With research countering those notions largely being ignored and left out of the national dialogue. In fact, much of the research demonstrating a positive impact of playing video games is conducted and published outside of the USA. Perhaps demonstrating just how deeply rooted those thoughts are.

Research has shown that regardless of the type of video game played, playing video games can help with trauma recovery, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD. In fact, virtual reality and videogaming platforms have been adopted by some mental health professionals in treating PTSD. Additionally, playing video games can help develop emotional resilience. Anyone playing any video game has inevitably encountered that one stage that seems impossible to overcome/successfully complete. Overcoming that initial frustration and trying again, may help players identify failure as a temporary stage that can be overcome. In essence, allowing them to develop a sense of coping and resilience to failure.

Video games also provide a venue for social isolation. In fact, for individuals with
disabilities, it may provide the only true viable solution for combating social isolation. Research has found that engaging in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games correlated to a stronger sense of social identity. Social identity then corresponded with higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of loneliness. In fact, most MMO encourage collective play, group membership, and open communication. This combats the image of the lone player, playing in a dark room.

Some argue that new games have a “built-in” social engagement component and expectation. Perhaps individuals that hold on to the antiquated notion that everything video game-related is bad, have not engaged in the newer, collective-centered games. And while many argue that prolonged or increasing gaming time has negative psychological and social consequences, in essence pathologizing long duration gameplay (i.e., ICD-11: gaming disorder), they fail to address individuals whose disability prevents them from engaging in a physical community. These individuals use gaming to combat social isolation, through virtual community engagement. For many, playing a communal video game is more about the shared community than the playing of a video game. AbleGamers seeks to empower this population that has been marginalized and pathologized and socially isolated. By enabling gaming through adaptive gaming technologies and strategies, we provide individuals with a route for social engagement and combat social isolation.

Roger Brooks, Director of Peer Counseling, Mental Health

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