Can Video Games Actually Help Treat Depression?

March 9, 2017

“Life’s a video game stuck on hardest, no way to save, and no extra lives. Worst part? No manual either. – Marlon Samson”

Depression is a challenge that can be quite difficult to treat due to the adverse effect it has on the mood and metal balance of a patient. The associated struggles that patients undergo for accomplishment of the daily routine makes life with depression even more challenging. The different therapies may not work if the patient remains uninterested due to the underlying disorder. Different medications for the ailment often have side effects.

It has always been believed that video games can contribute to depression. However, recent studies have shown that video games can actually help treat depression. It may be noted that like all things, playing video games should also be done in moderation to allow the therapeutic effects to become beneficial. Eight or more hour of video game binge will not lead to resolution of depression.

Different kinds of games, from puzzles to war games, offer different types of advantages. Listed below are a few video games that can help treat depression:

Bejeweled: Research has shown that everyday puzzle games can also contribute towards reduction of anxiety and stress as well as have a positive effect on the mood. Doctors believe that the huge array of distractions that we experience on an everyday basis may contribute to anxiety. Playing low-key casual puzzle games like bejeweled or peggle, etc. can lead to decrease in such distractions, thereby alleviating much stress and anxiety.

best video games for depression

Moderation is the key

Co-op and MMORPG video games: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games/MMORPG and online Co-op video games can be very beneficial for people with social anxiety related depression. These games offer real face-to-face contact and can be helpful in working as a team, building relationships in low-risk scenarios, and learning different social cues. Mario games and ‘Star Wars: Old Republic’ are a few video games that can help patients become more relaxed in social settings. It is important for patients to follow up online interactions with real life contact and not just spend hours playing video games.

SPARX: Developed by scientists in New Zealand, this video game delivers CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy in an appealing and fun-filled package. SPARX stands for smart, positive, active, realistic and x-factor thoughts which are strategies that can help overcome depression.

The model of this video game is an interactive fantasy wherein users can make an avatar that reinstates balance in the virtual environment by annihilating GNATs or ‘gloomy negative automatic thoughts.’ The goal of CBT is educating people with depression that such negative automatic thoughts are false, inaccurate, and not realistic.
Patients can also try Oculus Rift based game called Deep. It is an immersive and engrossing virtual reality game about relaxing, calm breathing.

Elude: People with depression cannot really explain to others why they cannot just ‘cheer up’ and how their current emotional state is not just ‘feeling the blues.’ This is where video games come to the rescue. Video games modeled as representations of anxiety and depression can assist patients in elucidating more effectively their current state of mind. Also, seeing the recreation of depression struggles (that you also undergo) by a complete stranger will help you feel less lonely and better empathized and understood.

Elude is one such video game; it provides metaphorical illustrations of different emotional landscapes. People with depression can also try Depression Quest. In this game players can select an adventure game and see the life of a person with depression.

In conclusion the best way to see if video games can in fact help you with depression is to try it (in moderation of course). The benefits just may be what you need to move past this chapter in your life.

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6 comments on “Can Video Games Actually Help Treat Depression?

  1. This is brilliant news. I have high anxiety and I have been saying for a while that i get theraputic (spelling) time out while i am playing the computer. Its a massive distraction for me one i really feel silence’s my buisy mind while im playing. The game i play involves the visual modifications of cars/motorbikes wich i really get my mind into. The focus and attention thats used to get the vehicles looking just right ( how i like them) really distracts my mind. And more so if there is an update due to be out (DLC) new vehicles added to in game then its an whole new set of ideas and thoughts about the modifications. .. Good stuff…

  2. Alice Mar 17, 2017

    Now this is cool! I had no idea video games could actually help treat anxiety (in moderation). Definitely going to check out the games you’ve listed.

  3. Ricki Mar 17, 2017

    My teenage son sent me a link to this article and insisted I read it. I thought he was BSing me that video games could help his depression… still a bit skeptical but this is worth a try! I’ve picked up a few of your suggestions on Amazon and just wanted to post and say thank you.