Research Shows Positive Health Effects From Gaming

Gaming Meditation

                         The Witcher – Geralt Meditating

If you still have a bad taste in your mouth after seeing Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic California Senator, go all out against the great evil that games bring to the world than we have something to help. A number of prestigious universities from around the world, including Colorado State University (Go Rams!), have been researching the stress-fighting power that video games hold.

While I know you are most likely saying “duh!” followed by an exasperated sigh, there are still a lot of people who don’t know this that need to know (‘ahem’ Dianne Feinstein).

The stress research, which has been published just in time for Stress-Awareness month (That’s April), has shown that gamers’ favorite pastime has the extremely useful ability of lowering stress. Colorado State University associate professor of anthropology, Jeff Snodgrass, led a study that focused on stress by researching the positive and negative effects an MMO, World of Warcraft, has on its players.

“In the first study, “Magic Flight and Monstrous Stress: Technologies of Absorption and Mental Wellness in Azeroth,” Snodgrass and his team defined the deeply involved experiences players have as immersive or absorptive. These altered states can cause both negative and positive effects, and players’ particular out-of-game habits and levels of distress, as well as their in-game play-styles, determine the exact nature of such effects.”

Snodgrass and his research team’s first study came up with some really positive details concerning gaming that tends to be overlooked by media and politics.

“The idea is that if you lose yourself, you escape, ‘Snodgrass said.’ So it’s deeply relaxing, what some gamers describe as akin to meditation, or at other times positively challenging and stimulating, like a great chess match where you’re actually one of the pieces, and we show that there are strong associations between these various states of consciousness and the game’s health benefits. But it is important to note that the escape must be controlled and temporary to be positive, so that it leads to rejuvenation rather than simple problem avoidance, which in the end only increases the experience of stress.”

While the research in the first study was sure to mention the negative effects that uncontrolled gaming (Gaming Addiction) can have on an individual, it did paint a pretty picture for the positive mental benefits you can receive if you manage yourself accordingly. I love the comparison given between a relaxing escape into a video game and stress reducing meditation. We have all had that great feeling where you forget about all your troubles and become completely immersed in a game’s world at least once. Nothing beats the refreshment you feel from throwing away your worries for a few hours while becoming part of something else.

The Colorado research team also conducted a second study called “Enhancing One Life Rather Than Living Two: Playing MMOs with Offline Friends” that you can view alongside the first on the Colorado State University website. It’s a pretty interesting read as well.

Continuing on the idea of stress relief, 3DS and PS Vita handhelds, as well as smart phone games, must be a godsend for those with too much on their minds. Games like the 3DS’ Brain Age: Concentration Training, which was coincidentally produced  by Ryuta Kawashima, a renowned neuroscientist from Tohoku University, is entirely focused on mentally strengthening the player. It does this by helping them deal with the distractions that have cropped up in our always connected world. Improving our focus is definitely the key to a healthy brain.

It is good to see some video game research that is showing both the positive and negative effects of games. I have seen too many studies recently that have an obvious political agenda against one of the world’s most popular past times.

Please leave a comment below with your views on games being used for improving health or about the routine political attacks being made on the gaming industry. Thanks for reading and game on!


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Written by Jonathan Parsons

English teacher and freelance writer Jonathan Parsons is a longtime gamer working abroad in Japan. He spends his free time swimming through the Akita winter snow to his car and playing classic PC and Famicom games.

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