Just Google “video games” and “depression” and you’ll get hit with a bunch of articles linking the two. Some discussions claim that video games cause depression, while others reason that depressed individuals are just more drawn to video games. While the causality of it may be unclear, it’s apparent that many people suffering from depression do seek comfort in video games.
For many people with depression, gaming becomes their coping mechanism. Different people find video games effective for different reasons – some may just use it as a distraction, while others may engross themselves so far into a game’s fantasy world because that’s where they feel safe and in control. In an article for Pixel Enemy, blogger Williams Pelegrin describes the way video games have helped him to improve his thought process and, in turn, keep his darker parts of depression at bay:
…While playing video games, I realize that, in the long scheme of things, such negative events that contribute to my low self-esteem and self-confidence are inconsequential because they no longer matter in different settings.
…The expectation is never there for you to fail, for you to feel sorry for yourself. There is always a way to clear those hurdles, to overcome any negative occurrences that might take place.
…Knowing this, I have been able to tackle my negative thoughts in an improved manner… Now, I expect myself to find different ways to turn my negative thoughts and self-hurt into something that is productive and positive. It doesn’t always work, and at times, I even wonder how the hell I can do such a thing, but at least I’m trying.
The below video from GameSpot shares some personal insights into how video games have helped other individuals through depression:
Researchers like the team at the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre are looking for that positive link between gaming and depression. Their review of over 200 papers discussing the correlation video games and wellbeing suggested that moderate gamers generally showed lower depressed moods than non-gamers.You can read the whole study here (pdf).
More recently, clever researchers and game designers have taken this a step further and started to develop games aimed at helping people recover from depression. Take this recent research from New Zealand for example, where they have created a fantasy game called SPARX designed specifically to help people overcome their condition using cognitive behavioural techniques. Results found that playing the video game was just as effective as face-to-face treatment for depression. Studies such as this open up the floor to further studies and more positive game development in the future.
Don’t forget though, everybody is different. Video games may act as an effective coping mechanism for some, and generally when played in moderation. And perhaps most importantly, depression and other mental illnesses should be tackled from multiple angles and it’s best to seek professional advice. Take care of yourselves, guys.
p.s. For those out there who are suffering from depression, there is lots of help out there:
- Australia: Lifeline 13 11 14
- United States: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1800 231 TALK
- United Kingdom: Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
- Hotlines for other countries
♫ ♪… So please don’t take my video games away… ♫ ♪