Video games are primarily a recreational activity. Almost every game is developed with the intention of entertaining the player. However, that does not mean that its use is limited to entertainment. Video games can also provide effective therapeutic tools for both medical and psychological caregivers.
Professionals have been integrating toy and entertainment activities into their treatment plans for hundreds of years, especially when working with pediatric patients. As a newer technology, video games are less implemented than other play methods, but their use in the field is steadily increasing as the benefits of their implementation become apparent in ongoing studies.
10 Performance on certain game skills can control symptoms
While a player’s skill and success at game tasks vary from person to person, their individual performance may show patterns. Multiple studies have observed the use of commercial video games as tools for monitoring patient status. One of them focused in particular on using the solitaire game free cell to monitor cognitive function in elderly patients without interfering with their daily activities.
Repeated, controlled administration of the same level or task in video games can aid in the ongoing evaluation of symptoms for different patient groups.
9 Player reactions to in-game conditions can help with assessment
Another way video games can be used to help professionals as a therapeutic tool is in diagnostic assessments. An article on the use of video games in psychotherapy treatments describes the many applications that games can have in that setting.
A patient’s reactions to events and circumstances at play can be used to determine details of their cognitive processing, such as frustration tolerance, memory, and motor skills. Their effectiveness in the game and progress through tasks can also help the provider determine their ability to solve impromptu problems.
8 Gaming can improve visuomotor control
Video games naturally require players to have a certain level of hand-eye coordination. However, playing them can also improve the capacity of the gamers in that realm. A 2016 psychological science study found that even playing an action game for five hours could improve patients’ measured visuomotor skills and response to visual input.
By that logic, consistent play of high-intensity games with fast-paced mechanics, such as first-person shooters or racing games, would help players continue to develop and improve their visuomotor control.
7 In-game exposure can improve communication skills development
A review of years of research into video games and their applicability to health revealed that gaming can help develop multiple types of communication skills. In one case, providing prior exposure to the task of selecting options from an on-screen menu in a video game helped nonverbal disabled patients learn to use technological communication devices.
Other observed cases showed that the pace, storytelling and visual instruction of games made them ideal tools to enhance children’s essential skill development through play.
6 Gaming maintains physical safety in triggering situations
For many people, the difficult situations that popular video games explore can be triggering, either due to mental health issues or previous trauma. On the other hand, some see this content as an opportunity to revisit shocking material while maintaining a sense of security. Video games offer immersive environments in which the player feels that he is part of the story.
However, they remain physically in the safety of their own environment no matter what happens in the game. This inherent ability to opt out or step back from the in-game scenario can make skittish gamers feel more secure playing more intense titles.
Gaming has always been a somewhat social activity, dating back to the days of arcades. As cooperative games continue to progress and increase in quality, so does their popularity among couples and close relationships. Many gaming couples have talked about how the time they spent together playing games and their shared interest in the hobby have been cornerstones of their relationships.
Co-op games require players to work together and communicate effectively to succeed in their tasks and quests. Gamers have praised recent titles such as It takes two for their relationship-oriented cooperative gameplay.
4 Games provide immersive distraction from physical conditions
Any gamer will tell you that one of the beneficial qualities of video games is the element of escapism. The innate immersiveness of gaming can distract the player from real-life circumstances that they may want to avoid.
An article in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Anesthesia found that playing a handheld video game reduced pre-surgery anxiety in children more effectively than medication. In moderation, deviating from the reality that video games provide can be beneficial for people with many types of problems.
3 Challenging Games Fight Perfectionism
For those who experience anxiety around perfectionism, video games can provide them with a safe space to experience failure. While the stakes in the game can be intense, having to retry a level or boss doesn’t have significant real-life consequences. They can keep trying as many times as necessary to progress in the game.
Many gamers like demanding titles, such as the roguelike genre or works from FromSoftware, for this exact process, glorifying the sense of victory they feel when overcoming a challenge after repeated attempts.
2 Stories about personal struggles create solidarity
For developers and players alike, the popularity of games that focus on personal issues shows that they are not alone. Titles like celeste, Gris, Killand Night in the forest tell the stories of their protagonists dealing with mental illness.
Players who have experienced similar issues will be able to empathize and see themselves in the characters and their emotional journeys. As a result, these games can inspire gamers to confront their inner demons with the same gluttony they apply to boss fights and complex levels.
Some of the most important factors for any kind of recovery are a stable support system and a sense of community. Gaming can be a gateway to these things as many gamers forge strong social groups through their shared interests. Whether through in-game chats in online multiplayer titles or through fandom around their favorite games, players can build relationships based on their love of gaming.
Online gaming, in particular, can be an important social tool for people who have difficulty interacting in person or are unable to leave their home.
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