By Chelsea Ward
Video games are often given a bad wrap when it comes to mental health. Many of us have been warned that video games would rot our brains, make us addicted or turn us into violent people. These misconceptions can be harmful and make us feel ashamed of our favourite hobby. But it’s not anyone’s fault – these stereotypes are just a product of misinformation that’s been spread over time. That’s why we’d like to help set the record straight by talking about some of the benefits that playing video games has had on our mental health.
Relaxation and stress reduction. After a long week of work or school, the cure to our work-related fatigue is usually a few hours of playing video games. This is because playing often results in dopamine secretion, which makes us feel happier. Even when playing difficult, scary or sad games that upset us, we still get the same rush of joy when we come out of these emotional experiences. Gaming also allows us to ‘zone out’ of the problems that are bothering us in real life, which gives us a way to disengage and return to them when we’re in a better mood.
Roleplaying and conflict resolution. Similar to reading a book, gaming allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of a fictional character. By assuming this role and making decisions, we’re able to flex our empathy muscles and solve problems from a new perspective. The lessons that we learn while playing as these characters often stick with us, and can even influence the decisions that we make in real life. This can improve our conflict resolution skills and lead us to embody the qualities that we admire in our favourite characters, helping us become the people that we want to be.
Confidence and motivation. Every video game presents us with a challenge to overcome. When we successfully complete levels, achievements or stories, we feel that rush of good ol’ dopamine in our system again. For some of us with depression, anxiety and similar mental health struggles, these small accomplishments can mean a lot when we’re struggling to complete real-world tasks like cleaning, eating or doing homework. That’s not to say that gaming should ever come as a priority to those things, but the boost in confidence that it gives us can turn our whole day around for the better and give us the push we need.
Social connection. Whether it’s through online play, couch co-op or apps like Discord, gaming can help to create and enhance our friendships. The relationships that we’ve created with fellow gamers have made us feel connected and cared for, which is something that we all deserve. If you’re ever feeling lonely or you’re looking for more friends, just know that we’ve got an awesome Discord community of Femme Gamers who would love to meet you! Join us here.
While the benefits of gaming are many, we’d also like to acknowledge that the consequences of excessive gaming can be serious as well. Thankfully, as more research is being done on all of the effects that gaming has on mental health, our society will become more informed of the risks and benefits. And in an informed society, we can ensure better safety, create acceptance, break stereotypes and encourage more play for everyone.
With this in mind, we’d love to hear how gaming has been beneficial to your mental health too. By contributing to the conversation on one of our socials below or in our Discord chat, we believe we can show the world just how awesome video games can be for mental health!