Are Video Games Actually Beneficial For Your Mental Health?
Since the first gaming consoles were introduced decades ago, playing video games has historically been regarded as a time-wasting activity with little value. However, recent studies are showing how video games can help you acquire valuable skills that transfer to the workplace. There is growing evidence to suggest that you can use problem-solving and leadership skills gained from video games to get a job and help advance your career goals and objectives.
Decision-making and creative thinking skills developed while playing video games teach experimentation and scenario-planning abilities that can serve you well in the workforce as you look for a job and advance in your company and industry. When the creativity used in gaming is applied to your job, the skills and passion acquired during gameplay will improve productivity and the chances for long-term success.
The rising availability and popularity of video games have reached the point that highlighting specific skills on job resumes and applications is more widely accepted and advantageous. With users spending more time on smartphones and other wireless devices, mobile gameplay continues to increase, signifying that video games will be around for generations to come.
The following are examples of transferable skills from video games you can use to bolster your career and help you land your next job, raise, or promotion.
How Do Video Games Affect Mental Health?
It’s no secret that unhealthy habits can lead to unhealthy results. In the same way that appropriate video game participation can strengthen bonds with peers, promote teamwork, and enhance a personal sense of accomplishment, excessive video game playing can negatively affect mental health. These negative effects of video games on mental health have led the World Health Organization to recognize gaming disorder as a legitimate addictive behavior and diagnosable disease.
There’s little to no consensus among experts regarding the effects — positive or negative — that appropriate video game consumption can have on mental health. Some expert research draws strong connections between video game play and improved mental well-being, at the same time that other studies find links between video games and depressive symptoms.
A rise in mobile video games across a range of new, improved mobile devices optimized for gaming means that video games are now becoming more accessible than ever. No matter the video game platform — mobile, computer, console, augmented reality (AR), or other devices — video games yield the best mental health results for mental health when children participate in moderation. With appropriate time dedicated to schoolwork, socialization, mealtime, and other fundamental aspects of a child’s day, moderate participation in video games can provide benefits without negative consequences.
Mental Health Benefits of Video Games
With a healthy amount of enjoyment, video games can offer viable mental health benefits to all participants. Studies that focus specifically on mental health dividends from violent video games deliver mixed results, though other video game types — including fantasy and adventure games, problem-solving games, and puzzle games — can help accelerate mental response rates and bolster mental health.
Active involvement in video games can engage several parts of the brain. The cerebrum, responsible for vision, hearing, touch, and other senses, is the most active part of the brain during video games. The cerebrum helps the mind constantly process new data as it is seen through the eyes, especially in games with higher frame rates requiring faster decision-making. The front lobe, responsible for executive functionality in the brain, is engaged and even enhanced during video game play, especially when users play fantasy or role-playing games that require situational judgment.
Cognitive Development Skills
Cognitive development means progress in the learning process, better equipping children to solve problems, think independently, and adapt to the world around them. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget first proposed a four-stage theory of child development still in use today, where children progress through four tiers of increasingly complex knowledge, learning to engage their surroundings on the way to adulthood.
Video games offer a wide range of cognitive benefits, and can help children make progress in core cognitive development skills, including:
- Reaction times;
- Deductive reasoning;
- Understanding of basic math and physics.
In particular, puzzle-based games that grow more difficult as a player progresses can help expedite cognitive development in youth, forcing them to apply new solutions to increasingly difficult situations.
Gaming also plays a key role in socialization among children. Sometimes, video games can increase social communication among peers while games are played. Given how often video games require teamwork, adventure, and puzzle-based games can also foster collaborative skills useful in cognitive development.
One recent study found conclusive evidence of a positive relationship between online multiplayer games and teamwork, where games requiring socialization would allow players to complete a shared objective. The latest gaming accessories help further promote socialization during gaming, through headphones and mics that promote clear, virtual communication between players over Wi-Fi.
While it might seem as though video games could shorten attention spans, there is evidence that long-term video game use might increase attention. Specifically, faster-paced games force players to divert attention where it is needed most, to keep up with the pace of the game. This learned skill can benefit study habits, concentration during conversation or class, attention while driving, and a wide range of other real-life applications.
Games that require hours of input at a time often require high levels of patience for players. Especially when a specific trial or puzzle must be repeated over and over until success, patience is key to success. This same patience can help increase a player's attention span, when the same amount of concentration is required in real life.
No matter the video game, strategy is almost always a critical component to success. Puzzle-based games can increase a player's attention to detail; Adventure and fantasy games require problem-solving skills; rapid-response action games call for faster reaction times and instant decisions. No matter the video game itself, interactive games can help players of all ages hone in on strategy development.
Time limits in video games can further enhance strategic decision-making skills. When players are given a limited window of time to complete an objective of any kind, they begin to become more innovative with the solutions they offer. Solving problems on-the-fly when puzzles and obstacles are encountered in any game is a useful life skill, and beneficial to mental health.
Potential Drawbacks of Video Games
Of course, video games can also offer some potential drawbacks to overall mental health. Excessive playing of video games can mean neglect in other aspects of life, and a concentration on especially violent video games can yield other consequences. Although these effects may not be due entirely to someone playing video games, excessive or unhealthy gaming habits may contribute to worsening of existing or underlying mental health problems, including:
- Gaming addiction;
- Emotional suppression;
- Anxiety and depressive symptoms;
- Social disconnection;
- Relationship issues;
- Decreased motivation;
- Dopamine addiction can decrease sensitivity to natural rewards.
These are only some of the potential side effects of video games on mental health, though it’s important to note that most can be avoided. Practicing moderation around video game activity can limit negative mental health consequences; casual video gaming has long been associated with a wide variety of physical and mental health benefits, including improved memory, healthy competition, and stress relief.
Mental Health Representation in Video Games
Current figures estimate that between 25%-50% of people will experience a mental health issue during their lifetime. Increasing mental health representation in video games, especially live role-playing games where humans are depicted on-screen, can help gamers to be more understanding of their mental health issues. Some games even take steps to represent mental health within the game itself, reducing the stigma around mental illness and promoting open, honest conversation.