Video games have been tremendously popular for, well, forever. But why are they so popular? What psychological benefits does gaming have? And what is is about games that make them so compelling?
The United States has the largest presence in the entire world, and in 2017 the industry earned $108.9 billion! So, what makes video games blow up in popularity so much?
There are different theories about this, but the most credible and sensible theory can be credited to scientist Nick Yee. He suggests the three motivation components: achievement, social, and immersion (Yee 2016).
The achievement component reflects the gamer’s desire to advance to higher and higher levels within the game as well as presents a desire to win the game. Also, this component involves an interest in the rules and with others who are also playing the game. The social component speaks for itself. It highlights the desire of gamers to communicate with one another and to form connections.
The immersion component shows the desire of the gamer to create a unique character that allows him or her to briefly escape from reality.
Video games, either regular games or specifically designed, help some people feel better and engage with life in a more meaningful way. Which one of us hasn’t feel better when we’re gaming? Everything else seems to matter the least when we’re playing. It may be one of the most powerful ways to combat depression. This is one of the main psychological benefits of gaming.
There are a whole lot of scientifically valid reasons why playing video games helps with depression.
In clinical and psychological science Cognitive Behavior Therapy is recognized as the gold standard prevention to approach depression. Simply put, CBT focuses on changing thinking patterns and behavioral strategies – causing and maintaining the depressive feelings.
Several meta-analyses have shown that CBT works on prevention the escalation of anxiety and depression.
CBT interferences are psychoeducational at their core: they involve a teacher or mentor giving kids lessons on divergent thinking styles, biases, and so on. There are often workbooks and homework to work through. But adolescents often find academic lessons boring. Engaging youth in therapy is one of the most challenging tasks clinicians face. In contrast, 97% of youth play video games regularly. We’re using games to hijack this enthusiasm for purposes beyond entertainment, in order to train emotional resilience skills that will prevent anxiety and depression… all while they’re also slaying dragons, socializing with friends, and having fun.
Video game addiction is a real thing – and is officially considered a mental illness. Should you worry?
This is probably not the first time you heard that. You probably heard it from your family every night when you turned your console on and started playing. And you keep hearing this over and over again.
If it seems that the love of video games has taken over your life, you should genuinely start to worry. You might be headed towards what the WHO has officially classified as a mental health disorder. The “Gaming disorder“.
Simply enjoying video games is another thing, but not being able to put them away is another thing. You might easily get caught up in video games for hours and eventually turning it off seems impossible. It’s precisely when video games start interfering with your personal life that you should be worried.
Here are the signs that you might start to develop a gaming disorder:
“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months,” said the WHO.
People play video games for different reasons. Some pay to entertain, some to lose time, some for the competition, and some to cope with anxiety.
“For most people, playing video games is a normal, healthy way to relieve stress, but some reach a point and can no longer control that behavior. Loss of control is, of course, a hallmark of addiction,” Gentile said. “If students in the study were more stressed and they played video games specifically as a way of coping, then their risk of dysfunctional symptoms increased.”
Anxiety has a way of making you think that your goals are out of reach even before you set them. All these goals are doomed to fail, and the past is just proof of that. Your internal reward system shrinks down, and it affects your motivation too. This results in an increase of anxiety attacks and distancing from social activities. So, gaming with it’s reset quest lines and reward system seems like a pretty good way to re-engage, reboot, and regain your self-esteem. This just proves that there are psychological benefits of gaming.
Bryony, a 33-year-old social media, claimed that “When I feel anxious, I tend to turn to time management games. Like the ones where you have to serve burgers before time runs out. It should be stressful but it relaxes me cause I feel like I am doing stuff right and achieving things under pressure.”