How gaming can positively influence mental health

How gaming can positively influence mental health

Updated: 3 months, 18 days, 8 hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds ago

By Dr Era Dutta

Gaming has always been a popular pastime for many youngsters and adults alike. The advent of smartphones, their affordability, and the pandemic itself have propelled gaming to new heights. The growth in its popularity has also led to gaming developing a not so positive reputation. However, there is a lack of data to substantiate claims and further research is required to better understand its impact.

A recent study published by leading psychiatrist Dr. Sandip H Shah, and peer-reviewed by the Medical Superintendent for Mental Health in Ahmedabad, Dr. Ajay Chauhan stated that online gaming is solely based on the user’s skills and knowledge, encouraging a healthy and competitive environment, and strengthening the players’ cognitive abilities.

As a hobby, gaming has positively impacted mental health and day-to-day living for individuals for a variety of reasons. While the negative effects of excessive gaming are often the subject of discussion, the benefits of the activity often tend to be overlooked. Studies across the globe showcase that video games have many benefits such as helping in the development of complex problem-solving skills, and promoting social interactions by interacting with, and building an entire gaming community.

Video games can be a great way to stimulate your mind and improve your mental health. It provides a way to relax after work, connect with others, and excel at an activity. However, it is very rightly said that too much of anything is not good for one’s health. Mobile gaming in moderation has more benefits than cons.

Dexterity and CoordinationWith the youth, gaming helps improve hand-eye coordination, creativity, and even the speed of response when solving logical problems. Moreover, surgeons are even encouraged to play video games helping them hone their responses, and skills, especially aiding fields such as robotic surgery or even laparoscopic surgery where a technical interface is navigated using precise technique.

Build connection and socializationIn a world where problems of isolation are aplenty, multiplayer games especially help build social connectivity and combat the loneliness and isolation that is often felt by many. Playing with known or even unknown players for that matter brings in a sense of team spirit, camaraderie and belonging within the gaming community.

Aiding Mental Stimulation

Requiring quick and long-term strategy, extended concentration, and often collaboration with team mates; gaming can help stimulate deeper parts of the brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.
Individuals with cognitive difficulties are encouraged to play games involving aspects of memory or problem-solving to facilitate stimulation. Memory games as an aid are even recommended for those combating Alzheimer’s amongst other illnesses or challenges.

Fosters problem-solving abilityVideo games can also help develop reflexes or critical thinking skills that can benefit you in the real-world. Fast-paced games, for instance, keep players on their toes, and force them to make decisions on the fly. This can greatly facilitate decision-making skill and problem-solving abilities in multiple situations across daily living.

Relieves StressPerhaps the biggest benefit of all is that gaming is a way of relieving stress. The purpose of designing and publishing games is for players to simply have fun. By construct, the activity is designed to be enjoyable, which makes it a great way to destress, relax, and enjoy a hobby by oneself or collectively with the gaming community. Collaborative gaming encourages communication and cooperation skills, which is a great way for the youth to develop team skills, and learn how to build relations with new people from different walks of life.

Moreover, gaming also helps distract us from overwhelming feelings such as anxiety or tension. When dealing with these feelings, playing video games that involve bodily movements such as golf or tennis especially help diffuse anxiety and bring us back to equilibrium. Moreover, video games can also help develop emotional resilience. In the games, the failure is faced head-on by repeatedly trying to overcome the challenge, and eventually succeeding.

With all activities, be it running, working, painting, it all comes back to moderation. While excessive gaming can take a toll on your mental and physical health, it can be beneficial in moderation, and assist wellbeing while simply being an enjoyable hobby.

While gaming has been around for decades, studies about its impact are still in early stages, and require a much deeper analysis. As the sunrise industry grows and develops, it is imperative to research, and educate players and consumers on the overall effects of gaming on mental health.

(The author is a Consultant Psychiatrist & founder of Mind Wellness. Views are personal.)