Disclaimer: We do not position ourselves as experts in mental health and any thoughts presented in this article come from scientific research referenced at the end of the article.
There are many myths and misconceptions about video games and their effect on young people's minds, despite this, video games and gaming can actually be beneficial to your mental health. Gaming can contribute to mental well-being, help players manage worry and anxiety, and connect with others. Video games can be a great way to stimulate your mind and improve your mental health. And not only yours, but your peer’s as well.
Social support networks are crucial to supporting positive mental well-being. For example, research suggests that social components give players a sense of belonging and improved well-being partly because of how they foster connection, community, and social support. Do you know someone you have a lot of fun playing with but haven’t connected with for a while? Reach out to them!
For players who struggle with anxiety, gaming can be seen as a way to cope with rumination and overwhelming anxious thoughts. Over time we all evolve different ways of interacting within a gaming community and among our friends to gain a sense of belonging and forge connections with others. Friends and colleagues use banter to bond, but it might be insulting or disempowering for strangers as the banter can interfere with the game’s spirit. Before rushing to the chat after the match, take a breath and reflect on how your thoughts might affect the opponent. Research suggests that exposure to harmful conduct in gaming spaces, however brief, can cause psychological harm.
Some players that do experience decreased mental well-being from gaming often have little to no understanding of what parts of gaming impact their mood negatively. Understanding how gaming makes you feel is a crucial step to empowering players to manage their well-being better. Mental Health Foundation recommends players to learn more about their gameplay habits. Reflecting on gameplay and mental well-being isn’t a silver bullet solution to mental well-being issues. But it may be an accessible first step that anyone can take to help to manage their habits positively. Some suggestions provided by Mental Health Foundation include:
Take regular breaks to do activities you see as more productive.
Avoid any frustrating games if you have already had a challenging day.
Select a specific game genre that makes you feel relaxed or de-stressed (e.g., picking a story-driven game over a first-person shooter)
These are only a few suggestions that can help you improve your mental health, but it’s not a long-term solution if you are dealing with anxiety and excessive stress. Seeking help from others is always an option and we highly encourage players to ask for professional help from their local care provider.
We hope this article was helpful to you or someone close to you and we want to thank anyone who reads this for being a part of creating a better environment for the members of your gaming community!
Dan Brennan (2021). Are There Mental Health Benefits of Video Games?
Fair Play Alliance (2020). Disruption and Harms 2020 in Online Gaming Framework.
Mental Health Foundation (2022). Exploring the lived experience of players’ mental wellbeing.