Stress relief is a popular search term on Google, and for a good reason. According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of the US population has reported higher stress levels in 2021 than in 2020. In other words, the longer the pandemic lasts, the harder we are coping with stress, anxiety and depression.
Experts and scientists offer a plethora of stress relief options, including games as a potent tool for eliminating stressors. Can gaming actually help? Let’s see.
Entertainment is the Cure?
Playing games has been considered a purely entertaining activity for centuries. However, more and more studies shine light on the various beneficial uses of gaming for society. One example is learning, as games help children learn better, i.e., they improve both the quality and pace of learning.
But what about health? Do video games have positive effects on physical and mental health?
Most studies exploring the link between video games and stress use action video games as examples. By definition, such games involve a lot of adrenaline-fueled moments that may increase stress. In addition, violent games with frequent combative in-game situations may increase aggression by the player. However, these studies have touched only the tip of the iceberg as combative video games are only one genre in a spectrum of video game themes.
A New Outlook Gives Hope
More recent studies are increasingly looking into the effect of commercial video games on mental health. According to the latest report published in the JMIR Serious Games journal, commercial video games impart cognitive benefits to those playing regularly. The cognitive benefits mentioned in the report include attention control, cognitive flexibility, and information processing.
Advanced video games are visual experiences, which occupy your visual attention more than any other sense. They often include various tasks that a player must perform to reach a goal or complete a level. For example, with multiple-object tracking, the players must choose which objects to focus on, and they must do so whilst facing a number of distractions. Moreover, sometimes they might even have to track multiple objects at the same time or switch focus from one object to the other.
And by learning how to focus on other things, video games help players learn to control attention in the real world as well. ADHD often follows anxiety and depression, so practicing attention and focus control can be of great help. Moreover, the element of entertainment soothes the player and lowers stress levels.
The Choice of Games is Vital
In light of the new reports and studies, it has become increasingly notable that the choice of games matters. Further still, it’s perhaps the most important aspect to take into consideration if we are talking about stress relief.
In this regard, we cannot disregard previous studies that have investigated aggressive video games as they do provide crucial insight into aggressive behavior that stems from entertainment. But, as we said, that is just one of many layers of the story, especially now that gaming has become so popular worldwide. A myriad of themes and genres exist, which means not all games produce the same effects on players’ mental health.
What to Play
Brain games and games designed specifically for relieving stress can be quite valuable for decreasing stress and anxiety. Moreover, more and more anxiety-targeting games are appearing in mobile app stores. Game-making companies are well aware of how many people are affected by anxiety and stress nowadays. So, to help their customers, they started developing anti-stress games.
If you are more into different games, such as games of luck and gambling games, the situation becomes slightly more delicate. For starters, gambling has an addictive nature, so customers need to be extra careful when playing online. However, even casino games can be relaxing and help with stress. According to Best Casinos, a popular guide for online gamblers, online casinos offer a plethora of casual and speciality games purely for entertainment purposes. Even slots, the most popular category in the online gambling sector, can help reduce stress. Slots include gameplay elements such as immersive storylines, peaceful and cartoonish themes, and almost repetitive movements required for playing. On the other hand, other casino games like blackjack and roulette are not recommended as they are slightly more action-oriented and include risky situations, increasing stress and anxiety.
So, can games help with stress and anxiety? If yes, is it only for entertainment purposes? Although games are primarily a fun activity whose point lies in providing fun, the entertainment factor is far from being the only reason games are suitable for relieving stress and anxiety.
As we have seen, commercial video games have many cognitive benefits, including attention control, problem-solving, and even information processing. In addition, however, the genre plays an important role, as not all games can soothe an anxious mind – and if they are hard enough, they can make you more stressed than you were before you started playing. Thus, we can safely say that games can be a potent stress relief tool – but only when chosen carefully.