Plugging In: The Mental Health Benefits of Video Game Communities
10 years ago the attitude toward video games took a negative shift. People began blaming video games for children turning violent due to one study that correlated violent behaviors with violent video game use. Setting aside for a moment that correlation data does not equate to causation and there is still no defining evidence that links video games to violent behavior, for 10 years we have been ignoring the positive mental health benefits of video gaming.
In 2017 video games are everywhere. The majority of people play some type of video game, whether its Bejewled on their mobile phone for a few minutes a day, Wii Bowling on family night, or spending 7 hours taking down a raid boss with a team of your best friends. Modern society is saturated with gaming. It was the natural progression of interactive entertainment in a capitalist society.
Video games are so prevalent in today’s world that people have built cultures and communities around them. These communities vary widely in terms of quality and atmosphere, but a good majority of these communities provide basic human needs such as inclusivity, validation and support. Gaming allows us to connect with these communities and tap into these emotional resources from thousands of miles away. Gaming can bring people of different cultures, religions, and genders together and contributes to healthy globalization. Human beings crave a sense of community and the rise of gaming has made it easier than ever.
The primary benefit of being a part of a gaming community is feeling a part of a community. Feeling a sense of community increases an individual’s self esteem, decreases depressive symptoms and can help alleviate social anxiety, among many other benefits. While there are a unique set of benefits for interacting with your community in person, interacting online shares a lot of those positive effects on one’s mental health. An individual can still feel included in their community even if everyone is a sea apart.
A major treatment method for treating depression among the therapeutic community is assisting individuals to discover a sense of community. Feeling a part of a community has been shown to be effective at decreasing depressive symptoms.
Another mental health benefit of being a part of a gaming community is development of social skills. These gaming communities each have their own unique culture. Just like real life society, if you want to feel included you must play by a set of rules. These rules vary culture to culture like real life and it is very possible to not be included in a certain culture if one does not abide by the communities’ cultural norms. With this in mind it is easy to conclude that by being included in certain communities one must build upon social skills relevant to those communities. Children and adolescents will often turn to video games when they don’t feel included in the communities around them. By joining a gaming community they will still have access to social skills learning and relationship building that will be useful for them later on in life.
There are many other benefits to joining a gaming community that are unique to each gaming community, such as teamwork building, a supportive atmosphere, emotional validation and learning to cope with disappointment. We have spent the last few years focusing only on the potential negative mental health effects of gaming, but it is important to acknowledge just how beneficial being a part of a gaming community can be to our mental health and personal growth.
It is important to keep in mind that video games, as well as any other form of enjoyment can be unhealthy if it begins interfering with your relationships, education or work.
If you are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with video games please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.