Video Game Play: Beneficial for Mental Health?

By Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, NCC | June 28, 2024

Video gaming. The hobby people love to hate or hate to love. Or maybe love to love. People have a lot of thoughts and opinions about and individual experiences of playing video games. Research shows that while there are risks, video game play can actually have some benefits.

Benefits of Video Games

Video game play can have some positive impacts for a person overall. It can increase cognitive skills like adaptive flexibility, memory retention, problem-solving, reasoning, and spatial awareness (Bowen, 2014; Kowal et al., 2021; Laderer, 2023; Newbold, 2022; Web MD Contributors, 2024). It can fuel creativity and provide outlets for fun (Laderer; UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, 2017). Video games can provide mental stimulation, build resilience, and help relieve stress (Bhargava, 2021; Newbold,; Laderer; Mella, Iacovides, & Cox, 2023; Sabri, Hassan, & Asadullah, 2020). Interactive video games can provide opportunities for social connections and a sense of belonging (Colder Carras et al., 2018; Marques et al., 2023; Sweet, 2011). Success in video game play can promote feelings of achievement and grow determination (Bowen; Lieberman, 2023; Sweet, 2011; Web MD Contributors). The often rapid pace of video games can help distract from pain and trauma, and/or suppress negative emotions that may be associated with conditions such as anxiety and depression (Healthy Gamer, 2020; Sabri, Hassan, & Asadullah). In short, the potential for video games is great!

Potential for Video Games

Potential to use video games to treat mental health condition exists, too. Researchers have noticed that certain games promote flow state, that helps reduce anxiety and stress (Monfared, n.d.; Sternlicht & Sternlicht, n.d). Other games can help train users to use cognitive and emotional skills, such as those found in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT (Pallavincini, Ferrari, & Mantovani, 2018; Pine et al., 2020; Sweet, 2011; Szalavitz, 2012). Active video games may help individuals engage in regular physical activity (Santos et al., 2021). Opportunities exist to study the specifics of how developers can make video games to continually better serve their users.

Conclusion

Should everyone play video games? No. Risks for video gaming exist, especially for specific populations. Individuals can pursue benefits similar to those from video games via other means. For individuals who enjoy video games, however, their benefits should provide pause for thought. Individuals who can go into video games looking for their benefits may find those benefits enhanced, or even perhaps more useful.

Recommended Reads

Jesus and His disciples sitting by the sea talking
Jesus Healing Peter: Healing Trauma and Shame
Everything in this Jesus story lines up with what we know about how trauma experiences are processed...
Read More
Close up lonely little girl hugging toy, sitting at home alone,
Scarcity Mindset in Kids
Kids develop a scarcity mindset as a survival way of thinking designed to promote acquisition of resources...
Read More

Video gaming. The hobby people love to hate or hate to love. Or maybe love to love. People have a lot of thoughts and opinions about and individual experiences of playing video games. Research shows that while there are risks, video game play can actually have some benefits.

Benefits of Video Games

Video game play can have some positive impacts for a person overall. It can increase cognitive skills like adaptive flexibility, memory retention, problem-solving, reasoning, and spatial awareness (Bowen, 2014; Kowal et al., 2021; Laderer, 2023; Newbold, 2022; Web MD Contributors, 2024). It can fuel creativity and provide outlets for fun (Laderer; UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, 2017). Video games can provide mental stimulation, build resilience, and help relieve stress (Bhargava, 2021; Newbold,; Laderer; Mella, Iacovides, & Cox, 2023; Sabri, Hassan, & Asadullah, 2020). Interactive video games can provide opportunities for social connections and a sense of belonging (Colder Carras et al., 2018; Marques et al., 2023; Sweet, 2011). Success in video game play can promote feelings of achievement and grow determination (Bowen; Lieberman, 2023; Sweet, 2011; Web MD Contributors). The often rapid pace of video games can help distract from pain and trauma, and/or suppress negative emotions that may be associated with conditions such as anxiety and depression (Healthy Gamer, 2020; Sabri, Hassan, & Asadullah). In short, the potential for video games is great!

Potential for Video Games

Potential to use video games to treat mental health condition exists, too. Researchers have noticed that certain games promote flow state, that helps reduce anxiety and stress (Monfared, n.d.; Sternlicht & Sternlicht, n.d). Other games can help train users to use cognitive and emotional skills, such as those found in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT (Pallavincini, Ferrari, & Mantovani, 2018; Pine et al., 2020; Sweet, 2011; Szalavitz, 2012). Active video games may help individuals engage in regular physical activity (Santos et al., 2021). Opportunities exist to study the specifics of how developers can make video games to continually better serve their users.

Conclusion

Should everyone play video games? No. Risks for video gaming exist, especially for specific populations. Individuals can pursue benefits similar to those from video games via other means. For individuals who enjoy video games, however, their benefits should provide pause for thought. Individuals who can go into video games looking for their benefits may find those benefits enhanced, or even perhaps more useful.

Recommended Reads

young creative male fashion designer making embroidery while sitting by workplace against female colleague in workshop
How Fiber Art Can Benefit One’s Mental Health
In the realm of fiber arts, crocheting, knitting, and crafting contribute significantly to mental health....
Read More
Happy family on vacation in the mountains
Taking a Break: Benefits and Tips
A break is a way to pursue self-regulation. In times of elevated emotion, it can be hard to pause. But,...
Read More

References

Bhargava, H. (2021, October 14). The impact of gaming on mental health. Well Beings. https://wellbeings.org/the-impact-of-gaming-on-mental-health/

Bowen, L. (2014, February). Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds. Monitor on Psychology 45(2), 10. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/video-game

Colder Carras, M., Kalbarczyk, A., Wells, K., Banks, J., Kowert, R., Gillespie, C., & Latkin, C. (2018). Connection, meaning, and distraction: A qualitative study of video game play and Mental Health Recovery in veterans treated for mental and/or behavioral health problems. Social science & medicine, 216, 124–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.08.044 

Healthy Gamer. (2020, July 13). Video games and depression: Is there a connection? https://www.healthygamer.gg/blog/video-games-and-depression

Kowal, M., Conroy, E., Ramsbottom, N., Smithies, T., Toth, A., & Campbell, M. (2021). Gaming our mental health: A narrative review on mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety using commercial video games. JMIR serious games, 9(2), e26575. https://doi.org/10.2196/26575

Laderer, A. (2023, July 5). Video games and mental health: The good and the bad. Charlie Health. https://www.charliehealth.com/post/video-games-and-mental-health

Lieberman, A. (2023, October 3). Video games & depression: What is the connection? Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/video-games-and-depression/

Marques, L.M., Uchida, P.M., Aguiar, F.O, Kadri, G., Santos, R.I.M., & Barbosa, S.P. (2023, November 7). Escaping through virtual gaming—what is the association with emotional, social, and mental health? A systematic review. Frontiers in psychiatry (14). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1257685

Mella, J., Iacovides, I., & Cox, A. L. (2023). Gaming for post-work recovery: The role of immersion. Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3581510 

Monfared, J. (n.d.) Anxiety and stress relief games. Concept continuing & professional studies. https://concept.paloaltou.edu/resources/business-of-practice-blog/anxiety-and-stress-relief-games-concept-professional-training

Newbold, M. (2022, June 30). Can video games be good for your mental health? Solo Living. https://wearesololiving.com/can-video-games-be-good-for-your-mental-health/

References

Bhargava, H. (2021, October 14). The impact of gaming on mental health. Well Beings. https://wellbeings.org/the-impact-of-gaming-on-mental-health/

Bowen, L. (2014, February). Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds. Monitor on Psychology 45(2), 10. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/ video-game

Colder Carras, M., Kalbarczyk, A., Wells, K., Banks, J., Kowert, R., Gillespie, C., & Latkin, C. (2018). Connection, meaning, and distraction: A qualitative study of video game play and Mental Health Recovery in veterans treated for mental and/or behavioral health problems. Social science & medicine, 216, 124–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018. 08.044

Healthy Gamer. (2020, July 13). Video games and depression: Is there a connection? https://www.healthygamer.gg/blog/video- games-and-depression

Kowal, M., Conroy, E., Ramsbottom, N., Smithies, T., Toth, A., & Campbell, M. (2021). Gaming our mental health: A narrative review on mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety using commercial video games. JMIR serious games, 9(2), e26575. https://doi.org/10.2196/26575

Laderer, A. (2023, July 5). Video games and mental health: The good and the bad. Charlie Health. https://www.charliehealth.com/post/video -games-and-mental-health

Lieberman, A. (2023, October 3). Video games & depression: What is the connection? Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/video-games-and-depression/

Marques, L.M., Uchida, P.M., Aguiar, F.O, Kadri, G., Santos, R.I.M., & Barbosa, S.P. (2023, November 7). Escaping through virtual gaming—what is the association with emotional, social, and mental health? A systematic review. Frontiers in psychiatry (14). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.12576 85

Mella, J., Iacovides, I., & Cox, A. L. (2023). Gaming for post-work recovery: The role of immersion. Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3581510

Monfared, J. (n.d.) Anxiety and stress relief games. Concept continuing & professional studies. https://concept.paloaltou.edu/resources/ business-of-practice-blog/anxiety-and-stress-relief-games-concept-professional-training

Newbold, M. (2022, June 30). Can video games be good for your mental health? Solo Living. https://wearesololiving.com/can-video-games-be-good-for-your-mental-health/