Now, there have certainly been a lot of coverage on the topic of video games and the fact that they damage mental health, they make people depressed, they have such negative effects on not only physical health but mental health too. Whilst, yes some of this is true, it certainly is not all about the negatives, because there are a lot of positives, that don’t get talked about a lot and it’s important to shine a light on them too.  They’re not all bad, but they do have their negatives as everything does, but they have some major benefits and some you might not even realise is one. 

Video games still have such a stigma around them, but for some people, they create this escape, this world they can go into, one where they don’t have to worry about anything apart from whats going on in that game. It creates this world for those who are struggling to go into and just forget about how they’re feeling for a little while and put their concentration into something else. Playing video games brings people joy, it makes people feel better, but it can also become addictive and it can take a huge hit to your physical health more than anything. But, in moderation, it is something that can still be beneficial for you. Here are a few pros and cons for video games in relation to mental health: 

black computer keyboard on white table

The benefits of video games in relation to mental health: 

  • Problem-solving: Now, problem-solving is definitely something we pick up over time and most likely learn to do at school. But, playing video games can actually help a lot with that, because you’re having to come up with ways in which you can perhaps complete a puzzle, how you can solve the problem. For example, games where you have to escape a certain place, you have to figure out how too, which requires you using your brain and being able to be creative and solve the problem at hand.
  • Hand-eye coordination: In some games, you may have to focus on aiming and that requires hand-eye coordination, because you may have to run and aim at the same time, which requires your attention of both of those aspects. You need to have your eye on the aim but using your fingers to move and to click if need be.
  • Planning: Quite a few survival games require you to have to think of ways in which you can come up with ideas on how to make food or even just how to survive. Which means planning out what you can do and figuring out what you have left. Being able to manage resources that might be limited and decide which ones you really need, the same as what might happen in real life.
  • Multitasking: In many games that require strategy, like creating a place to live but then something might happen in that area which requires you to take care of that but also carry on building and getting it sorted. This then forces the player to have to be more flexible and be able to change tactics very quickly.
  • Strategy: A lot of games require you to be strategic and that’s important on its own, having to deal with immediate problems that might spark up. While making sure to stick to the objectives and complete them by a certain time, if that’s what the game requires you to do.
  • Mapping: Some of us can read maps like pros but some of us do struggle, but playing video games actually helps a lot in that respect. Most games have maps and objectives you have to follow and in order to do that, you have to travel to the destination, which requires you to read the map and follow where you have to go. You’re expanding your map reading skills, whilst playing a game, which is a useful skill to have in life.
  • Quick thinking: Sometimes, when you’re playing a game you may not even realise that you’re actually thinking really quickly and having to make decisions within seconds. Choosing what way to go, who are the bad guys, who are good. If you’re playing a story-telling game, you might have to make decisions on what path you choose to go down that has the best outcome as these vary a lot and there is always more than one way to play through.
  • ConcentratIon: Gaming takes up a lot of concentration, it keeps your mind busy, it keeps you focused. It stops your mind wondering and just lets you focus on that game in particular. Which, can be great for anyone suffering from perhaps anxiety or depression, if they’re playing a game that calms them down, that they can lose themselves in. For example, a design game or a game where you have to organise, build and clean.
  • Taking risks: In life, there is always one point that we will take a risk, it may be the worst or the best decision we make. But, we should be able to feel like we can take risks and be able to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. That’s what gaming does, you have to take risks sometimes in games to get to the finish line.
  • Management: Games where you have to perhaps manage a zoo or a theme park, require you to have management skills, to be able to run the places properly and efficiently. Which is a great skill to have in real life too, of course, being able to learn a routine and making decisions.
  • Social skills: Perhaps, you’re someone who doesn’t have a particularly large social group, but you have quite a big one in your gaming community, or perhaps you watch streamers on twitch and you chat along, making you part of their community. It’s a great way to talk to know people, to be able to make new friends and possibly play games with them. Of course, always make sure you check up on everyone you speak too. If you feel something is off, then don’t speak to them. A great way to socialise as long as you do it safely always. There are also a load of games to play with family as a group and they’re fun for everybody.
  • Video games make learning fun: For children, games can be so fun to play and often help them learn that little bit quicker but also have loads of fun in the process. Being able to concentrate on something and achieving throughout, can be a real boost to their self-esteem and just makes learning that little bit more exciting.

person using desktop computer

The disadvantages of video games in relation to mental health: 

  • Addictive: Video games are definitely something that over time can become very addictive. To a point where you’re not concentrating on what you need too in life and you’re spending hours and hours every day on a game. Perhaps, forgetting to eat, or take care of yourself and staying hydrated because you can’t take your eyes off the screen. When you play games your brain releases what is called dopamine, which regulates the feeling you get when you play games when this happens you get used to feeling joy and being able to concentrate. But, over time your brain starts to get used to this feeling, which may prevent you from enjoying anything else besides video games.
  • Lack of motivation: Whilst, games are definitely something that requires a lot of focus whilst you’re playing them. They can really take a hit on how you feel in terms of motivation because you’re constantly playing that game and wanting to play that rather than doing anything else. You might not want to put effort into anything else, because you put all your energy into playing that game, leaving you feeling unmotivated to anything else besides playing video games.
  • Emotions: Of course, gaming has some major impacts on how you feel, for example, if you’re concentrating this may help when you’re feeling anxious or upset. But, it can have some negative impacts on your emotions, perhaps getting annoyed when you don’t win a game or feeling upset when you don’t reach a certain goal or feeling like you’re not good enough to play. A lot of the time, some games, can have an online community where you play with other people and sometimes these people can be quite nasty, which may make you feel disheartened and low.
  • Repetitive stress injuries: This is a rather common type of injury amongst gamers because it requires them to be strenuous and repetitive in the motion that takes, with their hands and wrists. This doesn’t happen to everyone, it’s just some things to be aware of. This can be for hours and hours on end, always having them in that same position. This can, in turn, cause inflammation and injury. Some of the injuries can be Quervain’s Tenosynovitis commonly known as ‘Gamer’s Thumb’ which is where your tendons in your thumb become inflamed and that leads to a lot of pain. Stenosing Tenosynovitis aka ‘Trigger Finger’ which is where your fingers get stuck in a bent position. Lateral Epicondylitis aka ‘Tennis Elbow’ which is what you can develop if you’re gaming too much, a painful condition, which makes the tendons in the elbow start to feel overwhelmed. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, numbness, tingling or weakness in the hand, feeling a lot of pressure.
  • Health issues: There are quite a few health issues, that may occur, these could be from the way you’re sitting so in terms of posture, not sitting probably, can cause issues for yourself. Eyestrain can be something that is fairly common in gamers because they’re constantly staring at a screen. It can lead to eye fatigue and can be difficult to then focus if you don’t take breaks.
  • Insomnia: Another common problem for gamers, is insomnia, this can happen because you’re so invested in a game and your feeling excited and energetic and staring at a bright screen can lead you to not feel tired even if you’ve played it all day. It leaves your brain going a hundred miles per hour, because of the rush you get as you play the video game. Making you feel more hyperactive and lively before you sleep.
  • Relationship issues: Whilst, they definitely help families connect when you play games together, they can also cause relationship issues. If you’re with someone who is rather invested in video games, it may be that they spend a lot of time playing them and not really engaging with you. Neglecting other parts of their lives and the people in them, of course, it’s great to be able to play them in moderation and have time to yourself. But, when it gets to a point you’re on it constantly and only saying hi to the person you live with once a day or only seeing them when you want something, is when it starts to become a worry.
  • Social disconnection: Again, whilst gaming can help you socialise it can often make you feel disconnected. It works either way, but social disconnection is actually a rather problematic issue in the gamer community. You’re playing games constantly, but you might just play them alone or not want to interact with others, you also isolate away from your family and friends because you’re so invested in this game.
  • Toxic environments: Like previously mentioned above, some people in the online community can be very toxic and like being hurtful to someone through a screen. A lot of bullying can occur, if you’re playing online with others, comments that they think are funny may really hurt someone’s feelings and make them feel really upset and perhaps even depressed, if they’re not already suffering. You don’t always get these people, but it’s important to look out for toxic people amongst the community.
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