Updated: Dec 25, 2019
By Ashlie Castaldo
When we see the word “gamer”, there tends to be an assumption of a mindless, almost lazy teenager who yells. However, the actual facts and statistics coming from the gaming industry push the idea that gaming is something that well, everyone does. Take a second to look at your phone. Do you have games on there? Perhaps Angry Bird or Candy Crush? Or how about a little bit of Mario at home after work? If you have answered yes to any of those questions, then you are definitely a gamer. Don’t worry about the new identity label though: gaming has psychological and social benefits according to the American Psychological Association.
According to Abby Daugette (Sekg, 2019), gaming provides three motivational factors to users: achievement, social and immersive. There is a community aspect that creates bonding and a sense of emotional involvement. Being in a different setting can take one mentally to a new world, creating a release valve for their tension/stress. Garnering achievements pushes dopamine receptors, providing instant rewards. There is certainly a case to be made that it strengthens the psychological skills and exercises those muscles.
The down side however, is that in much of the same way games can positively increase mental wellbeing, they can just as easily bolster negative coping skills and anger release. When those same reward retrieval processes are connected to hyper realistic violence or in back to back goal achievement over a long period of time, it rewires the brain to react fast to situations with high stimulation. When anger is being rewarded as a positive response, our brain will naturally be drawn to that emotion as a first response. Our gray matter will naturally hunker down and shut down certain areas so it can devote all of its energy to focus on what it perceives as immediate priority, unless survival instinct and long term goals are in place. Concentration levels can also be stymied when we are attacked by an endless stream of exciting stimuli-it becomes the expectation (Sekg, 2019). Life can be seen as boring in comparison.
Regardless of whether gaming comes across as more positive or negative, it would be hard to ignore the reality that games come complete with entertaining storylines and communicate to us in a unique way. Gaming start up companies and mental health advocates have banded together to help alleviate individuals facing severe depressive concerns or spectrum disorders be able to convey the depth of their struggles, or even connect to others in a safe way. We live in a highly connected world, and it is important to be able to have barriers or vehicles or in place where individuals can determine who and when they connect with others.