This is a question that comes up a lot: do video games relieve stress/anxiety?
There is no clear-cut answer, even though the subject has received a great deal of attention in recent years.
This article from the New York Times explores the role of Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the height of pandemic precautions, focusing on how it addresses the wants and concerns of millennials.
And this article from Wired includes some speculation about how certain types of video games could provide a sense of play that could contribute to a healthy life.
But if you’re looking for a straight medical, psychological answer to whether or not video games relieve stress and/or anxiety, we’re just not qualified to provide that, and existing research studies aren’t definitive.
Instead of providing a yes or no answer here, we’re going to talk about some of our own experiences with games and stress relief, as well as encouraging you to examine your own relationship with gaming and how it affects you.
Otherwise, we’re about to get into some light soul-searching about how games impact our lives.
If the only question here was whether or not we have experienced relief from stress and anxiety via video games in our own lives, the answer would definitely be yes.
We love playing video games, and we here at the GL offices just so happen to prefer relaxing/casual games about 90% of the time. That’s just what we’re into.
But we also recognize that, for some, even incredibly difficult video games can be a source of stress relief, as involvement in the game can help the player move away from anxiety spirals they might be struggling with at the moment.
But already we’re running into the issue of how different games affect different people, and this is also probably one of the big reasons why the medical community, as a whole, hasn’t been able to say for sure whether video games, in and of themselves, can help people with stress and/or anxiety.
We all respond differently to different types of sensory input, and those responses are affected heavily by our personal histories and our ever-evolving preferences for our entertainment, specifically comfort media.
There is no single answer.
For us, yes, there are many games that we can use to decompress and step away from our issues for a moment. But of course, stepping away from those issues for too long can lead to even more problems in the future, which just makes the whole topic even more complex.
But, as part of a healthy routine, booting up a video game could be a consistent means of halting negative thought patterns.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety and stress, then you may already know that simple breathing exercises can be a big help when you’re starting to spiral, and in a way, video games can serve a similar function for some people.
They take you out of your situation for a while, and when you come back to the issue at hand, you might even find that you have a new perspective on that situation that greatly reduces your level of stress.
But again, this is speculation based on our own experiences, we’re not prescribing video games for people having difficulties with stress.
Taking a Look in the Mirror
This is the part of the article where we encourage you, the reader, to consider this question as it relates to your own life.
First up: when you play video games, how do you generally feel?
If you tend to feel great while playing games, then games could be a good way to relieve stress, as long as you’re not playing so much that it’s getting in the way of other parts of your life.
But if you tend to get very frustrated while playing certain games, then this wouldn’t be a good stress-relief method for you, or at least you should probably stay away from that particular game when you’re already stressed out in your real life.
Next: do you use video games to avoid issues?
If you’ve noticed yourself using video games as a way of avoiding real-world issues and challenges, it’s probably not a good sign.
Though, if this is the case, or if you find yourself struggling with the central question here, we highly recommend speaking with a certified mental health professional, who will be able to examine your specific situation and help you decide what a healthy routine looks like for you.
If you’re having trouble limiting the amount of time you spend playing video games each day, take a look into screen time trackers and notifications.
All the major consoles now offer some form of screen time limiting, and on computers, there are a number of programs, timers, and online services that can let you know when you’ve hit your limit for the day or the week.
Keeping yourself accountable in this way can really help you carve out a healthy routine that doesn’t get in the way of work or your personal relationships.
Just remember that someone else’s guidelines won’t always work for you. Pay attention to yourself and your own habits so that you can adjust accordingly.
The End Part
While there is no definitive answer, thus far, for whether or not video games relieve stress and anxiety, for most people who enjoy games already, the answer is probably yes.
Video games can be very engrossing and immersive, allowing you to escape consistent concerns, though dodging these concerns for a prolonged period of time could be an issue.
But that’s about it for now. Feel free to share some of your favorite stress-relief games in the comments and consider sticking around on the site to see what else we’ve been up to.