New research into video games shows they are set to overtake traditional sport in terms of popularity. Here, one healthcare professional makes the case for the social, emotional and cognitive benefits of gaming.
According to a recent WE KNOW Gamers study by Momentum Worldwide, the majority of fans and viewers of video games believe that such entertainment will overtake traditional sports by 2022.
Despite the bad reputation the much-maligned gaming industry has tolerated for many years, to me as a healthcare professional this is good news.
I have witnessed first hand the positive impact gaming can have on people’s lives, including how it brings people together.
Contrary to the stereotype of the lone gamer locked in his or her room, gaming is an inherently social pastime. The study backs this up, showing that 59 per cent use gaming as a way to connect with others and say it has improved their quality of life.
But there’s another aspect of gaming that’s often overlooked, and that’s the impact that has on people’s mental health.
I work with people from all ages and socioeconomic groups, who come with a problem they feel unable to solve by themselves. Increasingly these problems are stress related, and can include anxiety, panic attacks, depression, overwhelming fears and phobias to name just a few.
Talking to many of my clients I noticed a pattern emerging as they describe times when they felt calm, relaxed and free of anxiety. This time was when they played games.
They felt relaxed, engaged, focused, connected and at ease, feelings that were notably absent from their everyday life. I ended up finding myself negotiating with parents on behalf of their children to allow them adequate, balanced 'play' time, and seeing a dramatic reduction in panic and anxiety attacks as a result.
Listening to frontline workers discussing the debilitating effects of stress and trauma in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire tragedy and hearing how gaming allowed them to reset and carry on with the incredible work they do, confirmed what I had already started to believe. Gaming is an incredible resource that can be utilised for numerous positive effects.
Evidence that clearly outlines the cognitive and emotional benefits continues to mount. Most games become incrementally more difficult as you progress through levels, challenging players’ problem solving skills and perseverance, both skills useful in the virtual and real world.
Gaming connects players from all over the world, creating a level playing field where religion, ethnicity, physical ability and gender are unimportant. Connecting with players online is a skill transferable to the real world, often facilitating real world connections with a powerful common interest.
I hope in the not too distant future we may see a reduction in the high levels of social isolation and loneliness experienced by many as more people embrace this medium.
As a therapist I use techniques that help people change their perception with the intention of helping them find a happier more fulfilling life. Using psychological strategies I can help people change their neurology, enhancing both their mental and physical performance.
The gaming industry understands our neurology and is creating ever more useful life enhancing experiences to educate, stimulate and, most importantly, drive enjoyment. We are seeing more and more games targeted to improve our brain’s lifelong ability to change, using neuroplasticity to achieve greater results mentally, physically and emotionally.
We have always needed outlets, we have always needed to play - perhaps this new revolution will fulfill both.
By Lorraine O'Mullane, Cognitive Hypnotherapy Professional