Video games are primarily a recreational activity. Almost every game is developed with the intention of entertaining the player. However, that doesn’t mean their use is limited to entertainment. Video games can also provide powerful therapeutic tools for medical and psychological providers.
Professionals have incorporated toys and entertainment activities into their treatment plans for hundreds of years, particularly when working with pediatric patients. As a newer technology, video games have been less implemented than other gaming methods, but their use in this space is steadily increasing as the benefits of their implementation are becoming clear in ongoing studies.
10 Performance on certain game skills can monitor symptoms
Although a player’s ability and success at game tasks varies from person to person, there may be patterns in their individual performance. Several studies have observed the use of commercial video games as a tool to monitor patient status. One in particular focused on using the solitaire game free cell to monitor cognitive function in elderly patients without interfering with their daily activities.
Repeated, monitored administration of the same level or task in video games has the potential to aid in ongoing symptom assessment for different patient populations.
9 Player reactions to in-game circumstances can aid in scoring
Another way video games can be used to support professionals as a therapeutic tool is through diagnostic exams. An article on the use of video games in psychotherapeutic treatment describes the multiple uses that games could have in this setting.
A patient’s responses to in-game events and circumstances could be used to determine details of their cognitive processing such as frustration tolerance, memory, and motor skills. Their in-game effectiveness and progress on tasks can also help the provider determine their ability for improvisational problem-solving.
8th Gaming can improve visuomotor control
Video games inherently require a certain level of hand-eye coordination. However, playing them can also improve players’ capacity in this area. A 2016 psychological science study found that just five hours of playing an action game could improve patients’ measured visuomotor skills and response to visual input.
Following this logic, consistently playing high-intensity games with fast-paced mechanics, such as first-person shooters or driving games, would help players develop and improve their visuomotor control.
7 Exposure in the game can enhance the development of communication skills
A review of multi-year studies of video games and their applicability to healthcare found that games can help develop different types of communication skills. In one case, providing a prior exposure to the task of selecting options from an on-screen menu in a video game assisted nonverbal disabled patients in learning to use technological communication devices.
Other observed cases showed that the pace, narratives, and visual guidance of games made them ideal tools to enhance children’s development of basic skills through play.
6 Gaming maintains physical security in triggering situations
For many people, the harsh situations that popular video games explore can be triggered by either mental health issues or past trauma. On the other hand, some see this content as an opportunity to revisit exciting material while maintaining a sense of security. Video games offer immersive environments that allow the player to feel part of the story.
However, they remain physically within the safety of their own environment, regardless of what happens in the game. This inherent ability to log out or step back from the in-game scenario can make shy players feel safer when playing more intense titles.
Gaming has always been a somewhat social activity, dating back to the days of arcades. As cooperative games continue to evolve and increase in quality, so does their popularity among couples and close relationships. Many gaming couples have spoken about how the time they spend gaming together and their shared interest in the hobby have been cornerstones of their relationships.
Co-op games require players to work together and communicate effectively in order to successfully complete their tasks and quests. Players have praised current titles as It takes two for their relationship-oriented cooperative gameplay.
4 Games offer immersive distraction from physical circumstances
Any gamer will tell you that one of the beneficial qualities of video games is the element of escapism. The innate immersive qualities of gaming can distract the player from real circumstances that they may wish to avoid.
An article in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Anesthesia showed that playing a handheld video game was more effective than medication at reducing fear of surgery in children. In moderation, the break from reality that video games offer can be beneficial for people with many types of problems.
3 Challenging games against perfectionism
For those who fear perfectionism, video games can offer them a safe space to experience failure. Although the stakes in the game can feel intense, having to retry a level or boss has no effect in real life. You can try as many times as necessary to progress in the game.
Many gamers love challenging titles, like the roguelike genre or works by FromSoftware, for this very process and praise the sense of victory they feel when they triumph over a challenge after repeated attempts.
2 Narratives around personal struggles offer solidarity
For both developers and gamers, the popularity of games that focus on personal combat shows them that they are not alone. title like Celeste, Gray, Omoriand night in the forest tell the stories of their protagonists coping with mental illness.
Players who have experienced similar issues can identify with and see in the characters and their emotional journeys. As a result, these games can inspire players to confront their inner demons with the same greed they use in boss fights and complex levels.
Some of the most important factors in any type of recovery are a strong support system and a sense of community. Gaming can be a gateway into these things as many players form strong social groups through their common interests. Whether it’s through in-game chats in multiplayer online titles or through fandom surrounding their favorite games, players can build relationships based on their love of gaming.
Online gaming, in particular, can be an important social tool for those struggling with face-to-face interaction or unable to leave their homes.
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