What are the Benefits of Gaming?

Many of today’s popular video games are highly addictive. Some are more addictive than others but in general, video games are designed to be addictive as game designers look for ways to make their games more financially rewarding. They design the games in a way that lures people in so that they will play the games for more time.

This is especially true for those video games which may be “low-cost” or  “free.” Such games, unlike Springbok mobile games, are based on the  in-game purchase business model that is quickly becoming a major source of the video gaming industry’s revenue.

Many social commentators are highly critical of the video game industry. They say that often, what begins as a harmless pastime and some light-hearted escapism turns into a consuming addiction. Game designers try to keep gamers playing by making it easy for them to achieve small wins so that they will keep playing through the more challenging levels as they try to attain more wins -- often through additional purchases and micro-transactions.

On the other hand, playing games offers some valuable brain-related benefits. Therapists are already using video games in treatment programs for a wide variety of mental and emotional disabilities. Educators are also turning to video games to create a more vibrant, meaningful and challenging learning environment.

Video Gaming for Mental Health

In a 201o article T. Atilla Ceranoglu of Massachusetts General Hospital published an article in the journal of the American Psychological Association entitled Video Games in Psychotherapy. In the article Ceranoglu discussed the place that video games may have in the clinical care of youth.  Academic interest in the use of video games in therapy is increasing as mental health professionals recognize the ways in which gaming can assist psychotherapy for children and adolescents.

Ceranoglu noted that, although the literature about the use of video games in mental health care is limited, many therapists believe that patients become more enthusiastic and cooperative when games are introduced into their therapeutic regime.

Such games may help therapists evaluate cognitive skills to facilitate evaluations, may serve to facilitate therapeutic relationships and may assist in elaborating and clarifying conflicts during the therapy process.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published an article entitled Serious Games and Their Effect Improving Attention in Students with Learning Disabilities that addressed the ways that gaming could increase performance on attention tasks for people with learning disabilities.

Another field of interest to therapists involves the ways that games which have been designed to help people manage mental health problems such as depression and anxiety work.  Researchers emphasize that these games are not meant to take the place of therapy but rather to enhance the therapy and help manage time between sessions.  Some of these games include:

  • Sea of Solitude – players develop insights and empathy as they follow Kay who turns into a monster as her anger, loneliness and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness overtake her. The game focuses on developing strategies for recovering from these feelings.
  • Night in the Woods – a game that helps players develop coping skills for anxiety and depression through role-playing a woman with depression. Celeste -- through the story of Celeste, gamers learn skills for coping with anxiety and depression. 
  • Depression Quest -- an interactive game where the player takes the role of someone living with depression by coping with the illness while managing every day life events.  The goal of the game is to demonstrate that people who suffer depression are not alone while showing those who don’t suffer from depression what it’s like for someone who does suffer from depression. 
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – a game that teaches coping skills for psychosis  through the eyes of Senua,  a Celtic warrior who attempts to save the soul of her lover.
  • Gris -- a game that follows a young girl as she learns to cope with loss and grief through skill-based challenge

Video Gaming for Education

A growing body of research is showing that, as a form of interactive entertainment, video games can be used to promote intellectual skills which support academic achievement. The field is still young but many researchers say that some types of video games enhance brain performance on specific tasks.

Richard Mayer, an educational psychology researcher at University of California Santa Barbara has been examining what people learn from games. Mayer is a skeptic regarding the place of video gaming in education. However, in an article in the 2019 Annual Review of Psychology, Mayer wrote that some studies suggest that students learn math, science and a second language better through gaming.

Proponents of using video games in the classroom say that different types of games enhance learning in different ways. For instance, first-person shooter games may be highly effective in teaching new skills.  Action games seem to be effective in achieving better results in attentional control -- the ability to switch between focused attention (extracting specific facts from a video) and distributed attention (scanning an area for a particular object).

Other tasks that showed that video gamers could perform at a higher level than non-gamers included the ability to mentally rotate two-dimensional shapes, switch between tasks and shift focus.

Whether this will help children in the classroom is not yet clear but the concept does have potential. Many professional educators are banking on it and are designing educational video games that, they believe, will boost cognitive skills while they add to student engagement.

Regardless of the specifics, it’s clear that the potential for video gaming goes well beyond the entertainment level.

Published in Other Articles

You may also like...