Although video games are not a new form of entertainment, they are gaining more popularity as technology continues to develop. Outside of the gaming community, many critics believe video games contribute to the destruction of mental health in young adults. Parents of gaming children or those unfamiliar with video games are responsible for negative stereotypes related to the community. Many studies conducted have published conflicting results, so the facts surrounding the issue may seem unclear. This argument paper attempts to change this perspective by providing the audience with facts surrounding video games and their effects on mental health within young adults. With the video game community often portrayed in a negative light, I propose that video games are a positive influence on a person’s mental health and that they can be helpful to more people if given the chance.
A prevalent stereotype used against the gaming community is the concept that gamers have little social contact with others. Although this may be true for some people, many people who play video games are playing online with other people. Up to 70% of people are playing in a socially charged environment which provides one way for gamers to interact with others daily (Granic, Lobel, and Engels, 2014). Interacting with others and maintaining friendships is important for mental health. Whenever some people experience social isolation, it can damage self-esteem and produce mental health issues. Gaming is also a helpful way for those who may already have anxiety problems as it can allow online relationships to flourish. There is not a perfect alternative for real-life socialization, but the ability to interact with friends and strangers alike helps keep the gaming community social and friendly.
A secondary aspect that connects to socialization is relatability, whether that be in conversation or group activities. Making friends is much easier when two people have common interests especially for those that may find it hard to interact with others. Studies have shown “that when an individual becomes happy, a friend living within a mile experiences a 25 percent increased chance of becoming happy” (Cameron, 2008). Simply having a friend nearby can boost levels of happiness which can easily develop over playing video games. The possibilities for increased happiness are incredible when considering how much a friend can impact someone’s life. The gaming community creates many friendships that strengthen through activities and group interactions. There are many popular video game conventions held across the nation, but the most popular ones often include over 70,000 fans from across the United States (Top Largest Gaming, 2016). Participating in community events with people who enjoy similar things can help a person’s mental health by feeling included and by having fun with friends.
Stress is a major contributing factor to the degradation of mental health in the world today. While social media platforms seem to contribute to the negativity, video games contain a different approach to the issue. Video games can reduce stress for young adults that play often, reducing the likelihood of mental problems occurring (Russoniello, O’Brien, and Parks, 2009). Many gamers play for fun, but they also play that they can release stress and relax. Holding in stress can increase negative symptoms for mental health. Stress is common in all aspects of life, so it is important to find healthy ways to cope with it. Unfortunately, many young adults become overwhelmed with it and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that may jeopardize their future. One surprising statistic shows that “about 5.1 million young adults age 18 to 25 battled a substance use disorder in 2017, which equates to 14.8% of this population and about 1 in 7 people” (American Addiction Centers, 2020). Substance abuse is common for young adults seeking ways to “feel good.” Psychologists and treatment centers work to discover better ways of reducing these numbers within their communities. Although video games are not going to completely solve these issues, they may work as a healthy outlet for some people who are questioning how they can feel better without using destructive substances.
Video games provide ways of decreasing stress in many forms. Gamers can participate in a variety of genres that cater to individual interests. Sports fans can play on a virtual NFL field whereas some people may prefer shooting aliens attempting to colonize Earth. Everyone reacts to stress in different ways where video games can provide different pathways to do so. Spending time away from school or work to relax and de-stress is important for living a healthy life, and video games provide one way for young adults to do so.
Another underrated aspect of playing video games is the correlation between gaming and cognitive ability. Those who play video games show to have increased cognitive abilities and often perform at a higher level on tests than those who do not play games (Gray, 2018). Evidence proves cognitive benefits associated with playing video games can be a massive benefit for young adults. Many games contain subconscious ways of learning that are not immediately noticeable because users focus on completing a certain objective. Having children and young adults play more games could improve test taking abilities which is crucial for the educational potential of these students. Students are barraged with important tests that determine how far one’s education may continue. Persuading children to study can be challenging, but video games create an interactive and fun way to learn.
Within cognitive ability, creativity is another mental aspect that can be positively affected by playing video games. Creativity is an essential trait that may define someone’s personality and may change based on whether it is used at school, work, or home. A study conducted by David Moffat (2017) shows massive differences in creativity levels among gamers and non-gamers. An increase in creativity and cognitive skills show how video games can benefit those who play them. A boost in creativity among the younger generations could spark an increased output of artistic media or simply better performance on tests in school.
In life, it seems that some people can do certain things while others may wander aimlessly. It can be hard to choose a career where someone expects to spend most of their life working while also investing a lot of money in getting there. With this much pressure, some people end up in a career that they hate which can cause a multitude of problems including poor mental health or substance abuse. Imagine having the opportunity to partake in a multitude of career and hobby choices. Video games can do exactly that by giving gamers the possibility to “perform” different jobs without worrying about costs or time restraints (Bamford, 2018). Video games provide multiple scenarios that closely relate to real life tasks which can imitate some careers. Emerging virtual reality technology is a truly mind-blowing experience that makes games seem real. With proper integration of this technology, people will have more options and less pressure on making choices like these.
In addition to enhancing decision-making, it is also a life-changing instrument in the medical field. As of now, gaming technology is currently used in the medical field for two major purposes: for educational purposes and for treating mental illnesses. Virtual reality technology has been integrated as a tool that treats people with specific phobias. By allowing a virtual phobia to seem real, it tricks the patient’s brain into thinking it is real, helping treat the patient by utilizing exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a way of treating certain types of mental illnesses by allowing close contact with the “trigger” so that the brain can adapt to whatever is causing problems. Exposure therapy also works for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as reliving those experiences in a healthy way can help reduce painful symptoms. The ability to improve mental health treatment shows when “Oxford VR has demonstrated to be successful in reducing patients fears by an average of nearly 70%” (Freeman, 2019). Exposure therapy through virtual technology is a proven cure for many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder or some phobias. Although a safer and more convenient way of treatment, it can become costly as technology is not quite readily available yet. With the support of more funding and more focus, gaming and virtual reality technology could become a powerful tool in the wake of mental health.
The rise of mental health problems in the world today indicates a need for combatants to drive out the negativity that young adults are facing. People find comfort in a variety of things, whether they be healthy or unhealthy. Video games provide a special place for some people who cannot seem to catch a break at work or for those kids who do not have any friends. Gaming is a genuinely fun activity that seems to mean the world to some people, and that is okay. Studies show that playing video games boost feelings of positivity and self-esteem (Jones et. al, 2014). Positivity and self-esteem are crucial aspects of mental health that may suffer when placed under stressful situations. Many young adults have self-esteem issues especially in the era of social media where it becomes difficult not to compare oneself against that person who is rich or that person who gets to travel the world all the time. If there are healthy ways of dealing with these issues, it seems in the best interest to take advantage of them. Negativity itself seems to be more prevalent with the increased use of social media whether that be a case of recency bias or a genuine uptick of occurrence. The power of positivity is one of those things that can change the outcome of a situation simply based on attitude and demeanor.
A different viewpoint on using video games in a situation like this could be from a rehabilitation standpoint rather than a prevention method. Substance abuse goes hand in hand with addiction which is a completely terrible situation to be in. When playing certain video games, there may be certain situations that invoke adrenaline rushes within the body. Some people like to chase the “rush” and experience tense situations. Since video games are fun, the body may release dopamine which can cause addictive behaviors (Understanding, 2019). This is a problem because any type of addicting behavior can cause problems such as not wanting to socialize or not attending to daily obligations. Some helpful ways to treat video game addiction include limiting the amount of play time or trying a new genre. Although video games are a great hobby, people may need limitations based on their experience with addictive behaviors.
The world of video games is something of wonder and vast imagination. Game developers and players alike dream of creating virtual features that the world has yet to see. The ability to play in a sports game that feels realistic to the point of seeing 3D players is astonishing. Using virtual reality technology to treat medical and psychological issues is a revolutionary idea that will only expand as research develops. The children and young adults who play video games should not be ashamed even as some people may criticize how gaming affects them. Considering the evident benefits associated with playing video games, it is plausible that raising awareness of these advantages will attract more players. As a gamer myself, I strongly encourage those with the slightest interest to further investigate the video game community because it is surprising how quickly interest can turn into a hobby. For the future of video games, we should continue to encourage young adults to play them and we should continue developing them as a strong tool to improve mental health.
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Author: Nicholas Patton
My name is Nicholas Patton and I am a senior psychology student at Louisiana Tech University. I do not have any writing experience outside of school, but I have completed many writing assignments throughout my collegiate career. I am a credible source for my topic because I play video games and I am a psychology student that has learned about mental health. I think that it is important to understand the connection between video games and mental health so that we may dispel any false information surrounding the topic. It is also important that we may use video games in the future as a possible healing method for mental health.