Video games get a bad rap. We’re told staring at screens for too long can ruin our sleep, hurt our eyesight, and stunt our social lives. Not to mention, violence in action-oriented video games—like Call of Duty or War of Warcraft—can make people more likely to have aggressive outbursts IRL.
Even with these potential downfalls, gaming is increasingly used as a therapy for people struggling with mental health problems, like anxiety and depression. Here’s what we know thanks to preliminary studies:
- Games don’t have to be complex to help. You don’t need an immersive, role-playing game to escape, zone out, and feel less anxious. Simplistic games, like Angry Birds, can help boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed.
- Playing games motivates us. And that’s very important when we’re depressed. “Gaming is the neurological opposite of depression,” says author and well-known gamer Jane McGonigal in an .
- Developers have already designed games to treat mental health problems. Sparx, for example, is a role-playing game that helps promote positive affirmations through the interactions players have within the game. In a small study, all gamers saw a drop in negative thoughts after playing it.