An analysis of how online gaming could have a positive effect on the mental health of an individual.
Unlike how “Escapism”— a need to experience relief from the constant monitoring of everyday actions—is generally used to connote a harmful and unidirectional transition to the online gaming environment, it is a temporary and bidirectional manoeuvre from reality to the gamers' world created in video games. Based on a report, a quick escape inside video games provides an enhanced ability to cope with negative emotions, mood repair by getting satisfaction from basic needs, and better handling of external and internal stressors. It is highlighted as a trait used by proactive gamers who use gaming as a recreational activity. On the other hand, a rather extreme form of 'Escapism' is a common trait amongst problematic gamers, who will find a lack of motivation to be present in the real world and may substitute it with excessive virtual world interactions. Depending on how online gaming is used, it has the potential to be harmful or bestow positive psychological outcomes for the mental health of the individuals involved, and it is crucial to acknowledge the dualistic nature of gaming, like any other recreational activity. The 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases defines gaming disorder as “a pattern of gaming behaviour (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” However, experts have found that obsessive gaming may not necessarily be a disorder in isolation, but rather a more prominent invisible disease symptom. It was noted that nearly 50 and 30 percent of the people diagnosed with gaming disorders have depression and anxiety, respectively.
Depending on how online gaming is used, it has the potential to be harmful or bestow positive psychological outcomes for the mental health of the individuals involved, and it is crucial to acknowledge the dualistic nature of gaming, like any other recreational activity.
Online games allow the players to escape inside the virtual world with the help of avatars—mediums that help gamers digitally represent themselves inside the virtual world. Such avatars can help individuals express themselves freely and accept their identities. For instance, “Forza Horizon”, a racing game, allows gamers to customise the avatar with prosthetic limbs that help give representation to amputated gamers. More features, like allowing gamers to use correct skin colour, help create an inclusive environment inside a game on the gamers’ terms, which helps them cope with the mental effects of exclusion that they feel in the real world. Global surveys show that the expanding attraction towards e-gaming is led by the ease of finding communities that fit them. Gaming has helped create inclusive communities to counter issues like stigma and exclusion, which create negative mental health-related burdens in one's life. For instance, World of Warcraft, an online multi-player role play game, has helped a gamer to come out as transgender by providing a “safe place to explore identity”. The player set up the avatar to look the way they actually pictured themselves, which other players wholly accepted on the platform. This diversity trend is evidenced further by the expression of gender identities in new gamers, as studied by Accenture, wherein a mighty 60 percent of them were female, and 2 percent were non-binaries. The pandemic years (2020-2022) have markedly seen a bending skew of near 50 percent towards female gamers, a rather inclusive-inviting sign of the communities. Therefore, a massive driver of the motivation to join online gaming communities is brought on by social interactions—with new/old like-minded individuals owing to the feeling of security it seems to offer. Game developers are attempting to educate and make a compassionate representation of diverse people in the broader context of mental well-being, providing an experience to the people, and helping them understand what actually happens to a person who experiences issues related to mental health. For instance, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health issue amongst soldiers who return from war. ‘Spec Ops: The Line’ is a first-person shooter game that explores the case of PTSD by making the protagonist retrospect its discussion of violent acts and gives a different take on violent shooting games like Call of Duty, where violence is embraced and promoted.
Gaming has helped create inclusive communities to counter issues like stigma and exclusion, which create negative mental health-related burdens in one's life.
Similarly, another video game, GRIS, deals with all the stages of grief where the character deals with a personal loss in life and goes on a journey of five stages of grief and overcoming it. Similarly, Celeste deals with anxiety with the help of strong narratives and gripping stories, displaying the challenges a person suffering from anxiety and the journey to overcome those. These games allow people to experience some of the many mental health issues which their friends and family may encounter. Gaming allows the players to escape, which in turn has a positive impact on their ability to cope and deal with stress. It can be an inexpensive, readily accessible, internationally available, effective, and stigma-free resource helping to mitigate mental health issues. Acknowledging the fact that mental health is a severe concern also shows how self-aware the online gaming subculture is of the concerns people face in the physical world. Online gaming also allows individuals to understand the complex system by experiencing them; letting the players role-play, and understanding how outcomes are affected by shifting variables. The analytical attitude developed in online games can positively influence one's real-world problem-solving skills or one's ability to grasp complex real-world problems more nuancedly.
The analytical attitude developed in online games can positively influence one's real-world problem-solving skills or one's ability to grasp complex real-world problems more nuancedly.
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Mona is a Junior Fellow with the Health Initiative at Observer Research Foundation’s Delhi office. Her research expertise and interests lie broadly at the intersection ...Read More +
Basu Chandola is an Associate Fellow. His areas of research include competition law, interface of intellectual property rights and competition law, and tech policy. Basu has ...Read More +