Video Games as Therapy: When Life Gets You Down, Play a Game

Does anyone else use video games as a way to de-stress? Maybe they should do a study...
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It’s not easy being green.

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Or so Kermit once said. The point is, of course, that life can sometimes get you down. Maybe your situation, financially or personally (or God forbid, both) isn’t exactly enviable. Maybe you’re making bad decisions. Even worse, maybe in your quest to ease the strain, you’re making even more bad decisions.

But don’t turn to alcohol to drown your woes. Don’t find the latest prescription drug that zonks you out and hooks you faster than most illegal drugs. Don’t rant and rave and lose your temper and say things you don’t mean. It’s too easy to lose the people you care about when you do that.

No. Avoid all of that and just… play a video game.

First, it turns your brain off

This sounds like a bad thing (and if you’re trying to convince someone that gaming can indeed be intellectual, don’t mention this). However, when you’re brain won’t stop reeling; when it’s continually playing various nasty scenarios over and over and over, you want a break. Your mind demands a rest. And because you can’t sleep the entire day, you should consider indulging in something that gives your brain a chance to focus completely on something else.

I have found that with video games, unless it’s a mediocre game or just plain boring, you’re always concentrating on what’s happening. Even if it’s a brainless shooter and you’re still running around in circles killing anything that moves, you’re still focusing. It doesn’t have to be a game like Journey, for example, although I will say that Journey was one of the most therapeutic games I’ve ever played. It’s kinda like interactive yoga or meditation.

Second, it has to be the LEAST dangerous form of alternative therapy

Like I said, turning to drugs and alcohol, or doing something equally stupid, like go off on an insulting tirade, only exacerbates your problems. It solves nothing and only makes you feel worse. But you know, playing a game doesn’t give you a hangover. It’s not something you’ll have to apologize for the next day (well, not usually). It’s not addictive, regardless of what the ignorant anti-game activists might think. It’s a clean, wholesome, involving form of stress relief.

Seriously, how many things can you say that about? It’s not even as expensive as other hobbies in which you might choose to lose yourself. Tinkering with old cars, for instance, can be extremely expensive; even being an avid sports fan is often far pricier than being a gamer, especially if you like to attend live events. Skiing and golf are freakishly expensive as well. I suppose you could exercise without the need for expensive equipment – and I definitely recommend it – but gaming fits right in there.

It’s not going to help your resting heart rate, unfortunately, but it still works. And no side effects, besides a minor, temporary sensitivity to sunlight. 😉

Third, it’s a form of active participation

Being active is what wards off depression and anxiety. This is a fact. Now, like I said, it’s a great idea to remain physically active, but there’s a reason gaming is called “interactive entertainment.” There’s a reason the word “active” is in there. It’s because we’re indeed interacting with something; we’re taking a proactive approach to our free time. It allows our brains to breathe; it flexes the mind muscle and successfully puts aside all those barbs that life throws at you.

Playing with others can be very helpful as well. These may be strangers you’ve never met before and will never meet again, but they can prove immensely valuable. A good, solid match with some people gets the competitive juicing flowing and win or lose, you’ll very likely feel a lot better about yourself – and your life in general – when you’re done.

Gaming is evil? Yeah? Says who?

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.