During the darkest, longest and most isolating periods of lockdown, we always had one outlet to turn to for entertainment, stress relief and even social interaction - video games.
Video games could provide an accessible alternative to mental health services
Despite years of debate surrounding the benefits and potential negatives of gaming, researchers at the University of Limerick believe that video games may actually serve a very important function for our mental health when it comes to easing back into normalcy.
A team at UoL’s Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for software, claim that video games could provide an accessible and stigma-free alternative for mental health services which are often unavailable to many due to high costs and long waiting lists. Lero researcher Dr Mark Campbell explained to Silicone Republic:
The overall accessibility and pervasiveness of commercial video games within modern society positions them as an invaluable means of reaching individuals with mental health disorders, irrespective of age and sex, and with limited access to mental healthcare, particularly relevant during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
He continued: ‘It is worth considering commercial video games as a potential alternative option for the improvement of various aspects of mental health globally.’
Why video games can sometimes be good for our wellbeing
While excessive gaming can take a negative toll on our mental health, one 2020 study did find a correlation between enjoyment and satisfaction during gameplay and positive wellbeing.
Not only does experiencing happiness during gameplay lead to feeling happier in life, but video games also have many other potentially beneficial elements such as:
Playing video games forces players to solve problems and achieve tasks, enabling them to stimulate different areas of their minds and open themselves up to creative thinking and problem-solving.
People relieve stress in a multitude of different ways; some meditate, some play sports, and for others, video games serve as a way to process and gain perspective on life events.
Online gaming and streaming platforms can be a great way for users to connect socially and become part of a like-minded community.
The same communities that are fostered through gaming can help gamers feel comfortable expressing themselves. Not to mention customisation, playing styles and game preferences can all aid as tools of self-expression.