Are video games and depression correlated? Does video game addiction cause depression? The first thing someone sees when they search for “video games and depression” are games relating to this.
Sparx, a game for New Zealand residents only, helps to “moderate stress, depression, and anxiety.” Along with this, there was a game invented in 2013 called Depression Quest that dealt with, as the title suggests, depression.
Personally, I think video games help with depression. This is due to in-game rewards, the distraction and storytelling of the game, and the anger or stress that is relieved as a result of playing the game.
The rewards in games vary from the moons collected in Super Mario Odyssey to the currency received from selling ash on Runescape. With these rewards, we feel obligated to keep playing and ultimately feel better about ourselves. For instance, when I beat a specific boss, I honestly feel like a bad-ass. The adrenaline rush of winning something and completing a goal is a feeling that can not be replaced. The rewards in game may seem small, but when you are put into a fictional world, and feel like you are the character, you are the one earning those rewards.
On the point of being in a fictional world, escapism also helps with depression. The fact that you do not have to deal with the real world is surreal. You can sit in a chair in front of a console and feel like you are a superhero, even though you are not. Anytime you’ve had a bad day, going right to video games is healthy and a steam-blower.
The distraction of video games is also helpful - your thoughts are settled and your brain is focused on accomplishing goals in game. I’ve had days where I overthink and let my sad thoughts consume me: “What’s the point?” “What if I don’t make it anywhere?” “I’m falling so far behind.” There is no need for these negative thoughts because, in reality, I am not falling behind, I’m just judging myself too hard and truly am bored.
The storytelling of the game is productive through its artwork and similarity to reading a book. Any good game is going to tell a story and force you to think. Whether you have to spam buttons or decide where to go next in the game, you are making decisions and being productive. You may be thinking that you are not bettering the world or that you are wasting your time, but sometimes making yourself happy is the best and most important thing you can do.
I am not that fond of reading, which I know is bad, but I feel that playing video games can be as equally educational, especially if it is historical or otherwise non-fictional. Even if the game is not, you can still learn things such as how to take care of family, certain recipes for cooking, and weapon names. Your knowledge will always be expanded with video games. The artwork can also allow you to think more critically and creatively. If the artwork is abstract, it causes you to think about what the image actually is, and it’s always nice to have the color wheel memorized.
The most personal way that video games help me is dampening my stress and anger. If I’ve had a bad day, I know that I can go home and whip out Soul Calibur. It’s good to get the anger out on artificial intelligence, rather than on real people.
Playing League of Legends has helped me with my anger throughout the years because I can take my anger out by spamming buttons and killing people in game. Killing something artificial is totally okay and healthy, a reason why violent games can be helpful. Sports are good for anger as well, but you could physically hurt someone for real through them, and, for me, video games are more convenient.
The only case one could make that video games cause depression is to highlight the dangers of an extreme obsession with video games to the point where one can’t function in the real world. Video games must be used and enjoyed wisely, for short intervals everyday, so that players may then feel happier and distract themselves from any negative thoughts, without going too far.
Featured image by Luke Ellis-Craven, from unsplash.com.