The idea of video games as therapy is not a new one. If you’ve ever played video games, or even know someone who has, or even read the news in the past decade or so, there is a good chance you’ve at least heard reference to video games being used as a form of therapy.
Gone are the days when video games were looked at as merely child’s play, a waste of time, or damaging to your brain. Sure, there are still some “haters” out there, most from the older crowd or the non-technological crowd who will protest video game usage and there are definitely those who have been negatively affected personally in some way but for the most part, it’s common knowledge that there are benefits to video games.
Some doctors are prescribing Tetris to trauma patients, virtual reality to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s, traumatic brain injury and other conditions that limit social cognition skills, and have proven that many casual games are great at alleviating stress. It’s actually quite nice for gamers to see the positive spin in the news and even in casual conversation, a nice contrast to the days of “You’ll rot your brain playing those games!”
At the end of long day after a hard week, however, these stats and reports don’t matter. As gamers, are we really looking for outside validation that the games we love and appreciate are okay? Do we need permission to enjoy our favorite pastime?
Sometimes we just want to turn to a favorite game like an old friend with a shoulder to lean on in times of stress.
Today was a good example of one of those days for me. After a particularly long couple of stressful weeks, I awoke to sad news on what would need to be a very busy work day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to jump right into work. I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the night before and this news upon waking wasn’t helping matters.
Anyone I would normally talk to until I felt better was either sleeping or at work and I didn’t really feel like talking anyway. This was one of those times where you just want to be alone and distract your brain. So I decided to take a little break and zone out in one of my favorite games. It didn’t make my worries go away and it didn’t dissipate the sadness but it did act as a valuable distraction for a bit, allowing my thoughts to mellow, if only a bit. I was calmer and ready to face both my work day and the issues at hand after a little time zoning out in a game.
Can video games be abused? Just like everything else in life, yes. Do some people use it as an excuse or fill valuable time they could be spending doing more important things? Yes. But if you’ve ever used video games to unwind after a stressful day or to distract your mind after receiving sad news, or to fill the hopeless void when it seems the world is crumbling around you and you’re just not ready to try to sort it all out, then you will agree that video games are therapy.
Are there any times in your life when you’ve used video games as therapy?