The effects of gaming is often seen as negative, and gaming as an escape from issues such as depression and anxiety is deemed unhealthy. However, the tendency of individuals to use gaming as a coping mechanism can be used to rehabilitate instead of harm.
I wrote a one page article about it, which you can view in PDF, in the format it was supposed to be in (and with an image about rehab vs treatment), here. Get the updated version here.
Gaming: The underused depression rehabilitation resource
Excessive gaming is seen as an issue that causes great harm, especially when it comes to depressive symptoms(1,2). From as early as the 1990’s, it has been theorised and studies have shown that many use games as an “escape” from psychosocial issues(3,4). This is also known as the theory of compensatory internet use, first introduced in 2014(5).
This phenomenon may not be all that bad, however. There are games such as Stardew Valley, developed by Eric Barone (aka ConcernedApe) in which players have reported improved depressive symptoms upon playing the game. For instance, Reddit user ashestoApples commented on a post regarding the game:
“It’s been a healing tool for me as well- even my therapist says it’s made a significant impact on my depression and anxiety and she’s thinking of recommending it to some of her other patients who she thinks may be interested!”(6)
Another game that is reported to have effects on depression is the currently famous Pokémon GO. Twitter user Hirez David (@uglycatlady) posted that “as someone with anxiety/ depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal”. The changes in behaviour brought about by this game have also been noticed by caregivers such as Janna, a member of SANE forums, talked about how the game has managed to motivate her son to leave his bedroom, where he managed to get physical and social stimulation, meeting fellow Pokémon GO players along the way(7).
These improvements in depression and anxiety can be attributed to the fact that the game motivates players to leave the house, take walks, and interact with others, which are activities that have been known to aid both the rehabilitation and treatment of depression and anxiety(8).
Based on a few online forum posts(9,10,11), it seems that games such as these have managed to achieve certain goals of psychiatric rehabilitation, specifically improved functioning, social skills, and physical rehabilitation.
The beneficial psychiatric effects of these two games were unintentional, and yet they managed to cause such a cataclysmic change in the lives of those with depression.
Follow up post: Sparx: A game that combats depression
1 Wei, H. T., Chen, M. H., Huang, P. C., & Bai, Y. M. (2012). The association between online gaming, social phobia, and depression: An internet survey. BMC psychiatry, 12(1), 1.
2 D Griffiths, M., J Kuss, D., & L King, D. (2012). Video game addiction: Past, present and future. Current Psychiatry Reviews, 8(4), 308-318.
3 Kardefelt-Winther, D. (2014). The moderating role of psychosocial well-being on the relationship between escapism and excessive online gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 38, 68-74.
4 Demetrovics, Z., Urbán, R., Nagygyörgy, K., Farkas, J., Zilahy, D., Mervó, B., … & Harmath, E. (2011). Why do you play? The development of the motives for online gaming questionnaire (MOGQ). Behavior research methods, 43(3), 814-825.
5 Kardefelt-Winther, D. (2014). The moderating role of psychosocial well-being on the relationship between escapism and excessive online gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 38, 68-74
8 Grohol, J. (2016). Pokemon Go reportedly helping people’s mental health, depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/07/11/ pokemon-go-reportedly-helping-peoples-mental-health-depression/