Game Therapy – How Can Games Improve Mental Health? – Extra Credits


The World Health Organization introduced a new diagnosis into the International classification of diseases: Gaming disorder Thanks to Nord VPN for sponsoring this episode Start protecting your internet experience today with 77% off a three year plan using code extracredits at the link below The definition of gaming disorder is as follows: Characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior Manifested by – 1. Impaired control over gaming (eg. onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context, etc.) 2. Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that games take precedent over other life’s interests and daily activities and; 3. Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in: personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behavior and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe. Many reputable psychological organizations have questioned the decision to list gaming disorder as an official disease But that’s not what we’re here to discuss today I am in no way a psychologist so I’m going to talk about something much closer to me… …something that I do have experience with: the healing games can do Most people watching this have probably had that moment where the world was too dark, the sorrow too heavy, and tomorrow was something that you didn’t want to face… and then you switched on a game You lost yourself in something imaginative or joyful, in another world, living another life You felt agency You felt like you had some control, where it felt like there was none before And when you switched off that game, you felt little bit better and it reminded you that there were things that were still joyful, that still felt vivid Maybe it even reminded you of the safety of youth… …playing your favorite game when the biggest worry you had was what you were going to have for lunch the next day These feelings are important. They’re how we put ourselves back together They’re how we stop the spiral And the fact that some of us choose to turn on a game instead of doing something more destructive is equally important Unfortunately, while millions of dollars are being pumped into studying the harmful effects of games… …very little is being done to study how we might use them to improve our mental health Whether as simple systems of home self-care or as part of a more rigorous clinical environment Right now, the majority of the studies being done about the positive aspects of games are related to physical things How DDR might help patients struggling with obesity Or how Wii games can be used to make physical therapy more palatable for those who need it They focus on things like how games might help increase a patient’s pain tolerance by distracting them from the pain Or the tried-and-true question of whether games increase physical coordination And all of these studies are great They have huge value, but they miss the thing about games that might impact the most people: that games make us feel okay And where this is being studied, most of the studies are around custom-made serious games for therapy Which again, is incredibly useful, and is something we should put more effort into, but it also shouldn’t keep us from studying games anyone can pick up off the shelf Because not everyone has the time or the money to go to a therapist who has custom-built games for what they’re struggling with And if a lot of people are turning to commercial games when they’re struggling, we really should understand how they affect us better We need to look into questions like what games actually leave us feeling more empowered, more satisfied, or just more safe After all, maybe it’s not the best idea to play a MOBA on a terrible day Heck, maybe it’s not the best idea to play any competitive game on a terrible day But it sure would be nice to know We need to ascertain what the exact positive effects we can get out of playing commercial games are And if gaming disorder is real, how do we make sure playing when we’re going through things… …doesn’t go from being a crutch to potentially leading us to gaming disorder Are there certain types of games that are universally better for our mental health… …or does it vary from player to player? Does it depend on what you grew up with or what you associate with good things? Is it all contingent on what you’re specifically going through? Are there times when losing yourself into a deep story-based RPG might be exactly what you need… …and other times were simply getting into the flow evoked by Guitar Hero or a shmup helps ground you better These are the sort of questions it would be great to have answered… …because so much of our community does turn to games when they feel like the rest of the world doesn’t understand them Or when it seems like there are things fundamentally not right with the outside world that they can’t immediately fix With that in mind, it’s important, even vital, that we look into any possible harm video games are doing And if we find they are really doing harm, do everything we can to minimize it But that’s not enough As one of the biggest applications in the world, games affect hundreds of millions, if not billions of people We need to look into how they can be used for good and how people are already using them to take care of themselves As designers, we need to know what good we can do so we can study and amplify it And as players, we need the tools to use our games to help ourselves heal in the best way we can Because for many of us, myself included, gaming is not a disorder… …but a very positive part of our lives that has helped see us through some of the most negative aspects of it See you next week, everyone Exposing your phone tablet and computer every time you log on to public Wi-Fi is not a good look And the thought of letting your campus or ISP log your private data is pretty terrifying That’s why I was super excited that Nord VPN was sponsoring this episode I come for the user-friendly experience and I stay for the military-grade encryption and thousands of servers across more than 60 countries Look, I’m logged in from Germany… or am I? Start protecting your internet experience today with 77% off a three-year plan by using code extracredits at the link below

100 thoughts on “Game Therapy – How Can Games Improve Mental Health? – Extra Credits

  1. Unfortunately, while millions of dollars are being pumped into studying the harmful effects of games, very little is being done to study how we might use them to improve our mental health, whether as simple systems of home self-care or as part of a more rigorous clinical environment.

  2. I've actually studied this a lot, even published an article about it, saddly it's not in english, perhaps i should do it though

  3. The idea about games as pain killing/distraction is intriguing. I can imagine someone playing games while in the dentist's chair.

  4. Why don’t you guys start a survey to at least kick off this research? I’d happily share my opinions on this in order to promote healthy gaming.

  5. My problem with these arguments are that while yes games help you get an escape every now and again, people with long term problems physical or mental will abuse games for the dopamine release. When I was heavily depressed about 3 months ago I stayed up late to play video games. I used the excuse that I'm an insomniac to justify not trying to sleep. Games had a negative impact on my life because I was unable to regulate it. A doctor gives you a set prescription for what you need, for games it is completely self medicated.

    Games can do a lot of good but they can also do a lot of harm.

  6. Science only progresses at a funeral, as they say. People talking about violent video games triggering violence. If only they knew it’s probably the only thing standing between a ton of a angry boys and a school shooting

  7. Video Games got Me Through Bad and Negligent Parents, Highschool, and prevented suicide not only for me but several friends. It helped me deal with College that was overbearing and prevented my grades from slipping to me the only reason Game disorder is a "Thing" is because a bunch of old men who listen too much to politicians trying to blame it for issues they politicized actually fell for such BS. To me its the same BS as when they said being Gay was a disorder

  8. Made me cry. So much of truth in this video. I remember times when I was scared or sick. While medicine did its job it was games that made me feel better. Games, close to the heart. Games forever.

  9. I'm trans and games helped me realize that. They also helped me deal with gender dysphoria a great deal.

  10. I duno, gaming disorder could be a thing, when I am in a time crunch I know I spend more (and too much) time playing games. but without video games, I think I would just do something else

  11. Life is Strange Before the Storm has also been very therapeutical to a lot of people dealing with the things Chloe and Rachel go through.

  12. This came at an appropriate time, literally just handed in a PhD proposal that is exactly this – how we can harness the potential of digital technology including gaming to improve wellbeing and promote resilience esp. for adolescents <3

  13. My brother has Down Syndrome. His reflexes aren't really that strong. When we had a Sega Genesis console, he would always play Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Every time he was done playing this game, his reflexes improved. With the N64, he was able to play Super Mario 64. He died a lot in the game but improved the more he played. No matter what, he as able to get a star. his reflexes improved even more. When we were away from the games and outside playing catch or something, he was able to catch a baseball (which is a big deal). The point is; games help a lot in my family. I can go on and on about this, but I'll end it here 🙂

  14. True Story:
    I had my wisdom teeth taken out a week before my birthday (all four, suffered sinus communication, not fun). My brother surprised me with an early present – A Nintendo Switch with Mario Kart and Odyssey. Thank goodness for it, because for the next few days, I'm pretty sure the endorphins generated from kart-racing and moon-chasing were what kept my pain tolerance high enough to not pass out in bed from the headaches. I had medication, sure, but I ended up not needing most of what was prescribed for the pain. I took two pills the day of the procedure, then I never needed them again. All I needed was the Switch.

  15. I tend to gravitate more towards experiences in gaming. Why? Because I can "live" the life of an explorer with a specialty and unique circumstances, like a Witcher, a Tomb Raider, Persona user, or a certain plumber. There's no way I could ever pull these off in real life, and I doubt they would be as exciting or reasonable to do so. Screw drugs and other worldly desires to kill boredom!

  16. Next video, I think it would be a good idea to talk about the lost enjoyment of playing games as you get older.

  17. This is a super interesting topic, one we discussed in one of my game design courses. There's isn't an easy answer and there are valid arguments for nearly every side of the issue. I'm very intrigued to see where future research is going with this.

  18. I'm European so maybe it's American, but how is your healthcare more exclusive than your commercial entertainment games?

  19. In my opinion; most AAA games need to have mental supports built into them, rather than the current situation where boring games that are advertised as 'mentally stimulating/supporting' which we cannot enjoy being pushed into our faces. Allowing therapy to become part of "addicts' " lives.

  20. When I was struggling with depression after loosing my job and moving back home with my parents, meeting and talking to people I met in Warframe was often the only social contact I had all day. People I'd never met in person saying, "I'm glad your here" or asking if I'll be on tomorrow for some event or another made me feel like I mattered. When everyone else criticized me for being lazy or not trying hard enough, my Warframe friends said it would be ok, that things would get better and I didn't need to stress about it. They were understanding, even supportive, if I said I couldn't come online because I had something to do in real life.

  21. Celeste was that game that helped put me back together during a particularly shitty time. Finishing that game felt like such an emotional accomplishment. Lol I never felt loved/seen by a game and its designers but gahdamn Celeste totally hit those notes.

    So yeah I can attest to the healing powers of games.

  22. …the definition is mostly just
    liking playing games as a hobby
    thats it
    MOST people could be diagnosed with that just because they like games at all
    thats stupid

  23. @4:57 Did he say a "Shump"? Presumably he meant a "Shmup" – a Shoot'emUp? Right? Or is there also thing called a Shump these days?

  24. The requirements by WHO can be applied to any other addiction. If you read so many books so often that your life is falling apart, it's an addiction. Yes, the thing you're addicted to is good. But there is always a thing as too much. I have no idea why they made it separate.

  25. Anything that brings you a dose of momentary satisfaction can be abused. There’s nothing special about games, drugs, alcohol, porn, sports, sex, music, food, your job, other vices/hobbies . . . etc. If it can make you happy for even just a few minutes, it can be abused.

    My vice tends to be video gaming because it has concrete obstacles and concrete mechanics that can be utilized to overcome said obstacles. I get my high off of creating systems to deal with problems and off of fixing things.

    I get worn out when people have easily eliminated issues yet refuse to free themselves from those situations. I recently ended a friendship with a girl who had major emotional breakdowns over some dude that banged her on multiple occasions but kept ghosting her. She said the breakdowns only happened when she’d see one of his stories on Instagram. I told her after each breakdown to just fucking unfollow him, yet she refused every single time. I finally got sick of being her emotional crutch, so I told her I was just done with our friendship. Naturally, she flipped out as if I was the bad guy, but I ignored her. She was her own villain.

  26. Could you possibly point me to any academic papers regarding both the positive and negative effects of gaming, or a place to find and keep up with them?

  27. I'll tell you when they don't improve my mental health. when they put all the information on the screen at once. I'm dyslexic and sometimes when I am faced with too much information at once, I panic and get dumbfounded. I just can't take any of it in. it's like they have paralysed me with info. it's really not fair. one message at a time would be nice. not six messages and flashy icons all at once on all corners of the screen. and then they disappear like 3 seconds later and I'm left reeling and feeling like i have no idea what they just told me or how I am now supposed to react. it leaves me feeling completely out in the cold and vulnerable and abandoned. It makes me feel like I'm stupid when in fact the opposite is true and so it enrages me and makes me rage quit a lot of the time. Then of course I am angry and depressed at the same time.

  28. "Gaming Disorder" is literally just standard addiction with "gaming" slapped onto it as if that somehow makes it different. Having gone through a few addictions myself, I'd be able to compare. Replace "gaming" with literally any other fun or engaging activity and it's the same. Addiction to reading, online interaction, videos and movies… no matter the noun, it all plays out the same. Games aren't different at all in my eyes when it comes to this.

  29. "Remember to take all things in moderation (even World of Warcraft)"
    Balance. Too much of anything is harmful. From drinking water to playing video games. Balance, balance, balance.

  30. +1 to this notion of gaming for positive stuff!

    For some, playing or making or modding games is a notable comfort. Others may use TV watching, literature reading, socialization, pet handling, or something similar to aid them emotionally.

  31. As someone who could probably be diagnosed with that gaming disorder, I really agree with what some psychologist said on the matter that it shouldn't be seen as it's own disorder but rather as a possible sign of other mental problems. With me, I have major depression and anxiety, and games really do help keep me sane. Yes, I need to be careful that I don't neglect my relationships with people, but gaming isn't the problem.

  32. I have never, ever, felt better about my life after turning off a game. Games are an escape—a learning experience at best, and an addiction at worst. Unless great care is taken, games that are intended to make people feel better may end up simply increasing their dependency on gaming in order to make themselves feel okay.

  33. Hey, Extra Credits! If you see this, do you have any ideas what sorts of games might generally be good at making people feel empowered, satisfied, safe, etc? I know there isn’t much research, but maybe any sort of trends you’ve noticed from personal experience? Thanks!

  34. I know this is like, two weeks old right now, but Matt you did a great job with narration in this one! I can't see the flaws most people noted on your first videos. Congratulations and keep it up!

  35. I love playing games like Assassins creed and fortnite. Even when I'm angry, I love pouring my anger out on opponent's on the battlefield, and in assassins creed where I just spam kill every guard in sight.

  36. Knowing a couple game addicts the biggest difference I see between addiction and healthy gaming behaviour is that the addicts – in my experience – almost never switch the games they are playing. It's almost always just that ONE game that really hooked them and they can't stop playing it. As for the positive effects for mental health: When you suffer from depression nothing helps you more than FINALLY finding something you enjoy doing. Depression drains you from motivation and in becomes worse the more you give in to the inactivity. So when you find that one game that really just makes you forget how empty you feel for a couple hours and maybe even gets you back into the habit of "doing things" then thats a huge win.

  37. I agree with all of this. I would not be here today if it wasn't for gaming. I'd literally be DEAD. So yeah, I'm invested in all of this, body and soul.

  38. I find it interesting how people are never reluctant about endorsing board games like settlers of catan as a teaching tool or even means of child therapy in some cases (observing how the patient reacts when faced with adversity and trying to intervene). When people say "games" it's always video games with all its bad rap, but if you say "board games" then it doesn't have any of that. I do know that board games allow for more agency amongst a larger group of people who might not have the same physical skills (a child vs. an adult in an FPS, most situations the adult would win). But for those that the physical concerns are not as major it is definetely worth considering video games in therapy environments. I can imagine stuff like people doing walking sims about a particular setting they had PTSD in, playing through gone home and trying to deal with a neglectful family life you had.

  39. Recently found this book in the psychology section of the university book shop where I work: Working with Video Gamers and Games in Therapy: A Clinician's Guide https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1138747149/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_SVPDBbPRX8QQ4

  40. 5:11
    Sets World on Fire
    Go's Inside To Play Fallout
    Boots Up Fallout 3 and watches some videos on it while it loads
    I Don't Want To set the world on fire plays

  41. I've been very accepting of EC's sponsorships, but this one seems a bit too much like an advertisement. It's distracting from the message.

  42. Final Fantasy V, on the original Playstation, way back in the day, helped me work through a horrible, debilitating depression. As I worked through the levels in the game, and got immersed in the story, I felt a small sense of accomplishment each day. That accomplishment helped me work up slowly to start doing everything that was overwhelming – showering, eating, then eventually getting back to work.

    Just my experience, that had me shaking my head "Yes" to everything you said.

  43. I’m chronically ill and use games both as distraction from horrible pain, and escapism into other words. Being able to do things I could never do. Like run across a field. Have adventures and explore vast worlds. I in my body am trapped. Trapped in pain and lack of mobility. But in my mind I am free. And games, books and tv help facilitate that.

  44. you switch up a game pun inteded ha I dont have a switch, ha ha he……. (i love my ps2)I would like a switch…….. I dont have the money

  45. I was saved by world of warcraft in a phase of heavy depression. Loosing myself in this amazing world, where I could play with people and lvl up…I fucking love games. I was shaped by games. I even learned english from them.

  46. Remember having one really bad day, and logged on Final Fantasy 14, doing a portion of the main quest where I wound up helping a bunch of NPC refugees, and it helped brighten my day.

  47. Here's a story that happened to me: I was diagnosed in 2014 with depression and anxiety. I hated myself and wanted nothing more than to end my own life. This happened thanks to a job I wanted not turning out the way I wanted, me failing my academic studies and having an autoimmune disease I never learned the consequence of. I had no direction for my life and was terrified I will become a burden on my parents.
    I saw a fan art of a character from Dragon Age on Tumblr while looking for a new fandom, and got curios. When I learnt it was a game of choices, I decided to give it a shot myself instead of watching it on YouTube.
    All of a sudden, I know what I wanted to do in my life. And I didn't hate myself as much. I mean, how bad can I be? I might not be amazing, but I did just save a city.
    Then a kingdom.
    Then a continent.
    Then the galaxy.
    And in this process, I learned something about me: I'm not so bad. I'm not unscientific. These games helped me rediscover my determination, my love for fantasy and sci fi and rekindle my interest in life.
    I can change thing and do good. Yes, I knew it wasn't real. But I also found out what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a concept artist. From the 4th grade, I drew. Even when I was at my lowest, I drew. And now, I am about to finish my studies in IAC (Israeli Animation College). I'm not saying video games cured my depression. I went through a lot of therapy and am still taking medication. but they did pave the way and reminded me some things about myself.

  48. I play games a lot because 1 I have nothing better to do at the moment 2 they remind me that there good people out there and people who might be going through the same time as me

  49. What you described at the beginning is just "Other addiction behavior". Exchange Gaming for Heroin, Pornography, Odd unhealthy food, driving a car, or showering, and they could all be a "disorder". To my understanding APA and the WHO is working to adapt diagnostic manuals to take the versatility of addiction in mind, since a person can be addicted to anything, and the causes and treatments are basically the same.

  50. Nobody in the WHO plays games, just like everyone who makes laws about drugs have never even seen drugs let alone experimented.

  51. Very interesting. Just imagine what would happen if you get a prescription for "video games" I wonder if my health insurance covers that

  52. I know I'm commenting late but I feel I have to share. I'm both dyslexic and dyspraxic. Growing up my parents did a lot of work with me to help me through an education system which didn't fit well with my needs, and that helped a lot. However, gaming probably helped me just as much. Requiring me to read to understand an interesting world or to try over and over to get down the motor skills to beat that next boss slowly built up my vocab and reading ability and helped me better master my own motor skills. Gaming has helped me a lot and I don't think I would be remotely as well ajusted to the challenges of the world with out it, from simply being able to read scientific papers and advanced novels to being able to cook without cutting my own fingers I owe a small part of that to the skills gaming as a young teenager helped me develop.

  53. We need more studies to look at these questions. Sadly most therapists are dismissive of video games helping mental health. My previous one of especially confusing as telling to not engage in stress avoidance yet warning me against computer games as they will cause stress. Her unsympathetic advice drove me to the brink of suicide. This was regarded as progress by the mental health team. This is why I go it alone now. These people are astoundingly stupid. I mentioned a use cannabis a couple times a week and then she just assumed I was addicted to cannabis. This is like a computer technician not knowing what RAM is.

  54. I am alive today because of games. When mom and dad were yelling at each other, when the only sound in the house was all the screaming and crying and breaking furniture, games were my only escape. Rock on, Extra Credits. Rock on.

  55. I suffer from loneliness and issues of self worth and games help me a lot with both of those problems they help me feel like I'm not alone and like I'm not useless so thanks games you help me feel alright

  56. I am a psychologist, and a gamer, and I myself had a time in my life when I think I would have probably met the diagnostic criteria for gaming disorder … when playing was more important than going out to meet friends, or do my school work, or work towards any of my other goals in life … nowadays I work with children and teens, I see gaming addiction side-by-side with depression and anxiety … games in and of themselves are never the problem. Life circumstances, lack of support and coping mechanisms, and many other factor play into these situations. I am not a fan of turning and equating the thing itself to a disorder.

  57. The big problem with gaming disorder is that they claimthe only solution is zero tolerance and never look into the groundwork problems that caused it, seeing I grew up with mental abuse from age 3 through 14, I developped a gaming addiction to escape my own inability toact against it, simply fleeing my ineptitude… and zero tolerance got dropped on me twice, never solving it. Instead I gained control over it due to therapies and life actually becoming more managable, by now gaming even became the relaxation it has been early on

  58. OMG yes! Stardew Valley helped me cope with loss when I simply had no more emotional energy to deal. It just gave me a safe place to be while I gathered myself. Dark Souls, on the other hand, just helped me learn how to deal with anxiety and depression in a way I don't think would be possible. It helped me develop resilience and survive 'dying' on any panic attack I ever went through.

  59. You are putting Nintendo and YouTubers out of business. With the “ ‘Gaming disorder' now designated as mental health condition” thing

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