Gaming Is Good For You: The Rise Of "Serious" Games For Mental Health I Oxford Open Learning


    Gaming Is Good For You: The Rise Of “Serious” Games For Mental Health

    In my previous article, “Gaming is Good For You: The Positive Impact on Mental Health,” we explored how video games, when approached mindfully and in moderation, can have a positive impact on mental well-being. From cognitive engagement to stress relief and social connections, gaming offers a multifaceted approach to enhancing our mental health.

    I mentioned Headspace: Meditation & Sleep and Calm, which offer mobile apps that gamify meditation and relaxation techniques, and it’s worth bringing them up again.

    In this follow-up, I delve deeper into the emerging world of “serious games” designed specifically for mental health therapy and emotional growth. These games are not only entertaining but also serve as powerful tools for managing anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

    Serious Play Time

    Serious games, also known as “games for change” or “games for impact,” are interactive experiences designed with a primary purpose beyond entertainment. They aim to educate, inform, or address social and psychological issues. Over the years, serious games have evolved to encompass a wide range of topics, including mental health.

    One of the notable aspects of serious games is their ability to engage players while also delivering valuable therapeutic benefits. They combine the immersive qualities of traditional video games with evidence-based therapeutic techniques, making them effective tools for managing mental health concerns.

    Seriously Good Examples

    SuperBetter: Created by game designer Jane McGonigal, SuperBetter is a game that turns life challenges into a heroic quest. It encourages players to set goals, build resilience, and connect with others for support. SuperBetter is particularly effective in helping individuals tackle depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    Elude: Elude is a serious game that focuses on raising awareness about depression and the importance of seeking help. Players navigate a dark, challenging world as a character struggling with depression. This game provides insight into the emotional experiences of individuals with depression, fostering empathy and reducing stigma.

    These are just two examples of the massive and ever-growing library of serious games designed to support mental health. Many of these are free to play too!

    Seriously Beneficial

    Serious games designed for mental health therapy offer several therapeutic benefits:

    Engagement and Motivation: Serious games are inherently engaging, which can be especially important for individuals with mental health challenges. They motivate players to actively participate in their therapy, making the process more enjoyable and effective.

    Safe Space for Exposure: Games provide a safe environment for individuals to confront their fears and anxieties, which can be an essential component of exposure therapy.

    Skill Building: Serious games can teach valuable skills for managing mental health. SuperBetter, for example, encourages players to develop resilience and coping strategies.

    Emotional Expression: Games like Elude allow individuals to express and explore their emotions in a non-threatening way, fostering self-awareness and reducing stigma.

    Playing For The Future

    As technology continues to advance, the potential for serious games to play a significant role in mental health treatment is growing. Researchers and developers are exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create even more immersive and effective therapeutic experiences. Furthermore, the accessibility of these games is expanding. Many serious games can be played on smartphones and tablets, making them accessible to a broad audience. This accessibility is particularly important for reaching individuals who may not have access to traditional forms of therapy.

    A Different Kind of Therapy

    Serious games for mental health represent an exciting frontier in the intersection of gaming and well-being. They harness the power of interactive experiences to provide therapeutic benefits, offering a new approach to managing mental health challenges. As we continue to explore the potential of serious games, we may find that they become valuable tools in the hands of therapists and individuals alike, helping us navigate the complexities of our mental health while enjoying the engaging world of gaming.

    So, the next time you pick up a controller or launch a Serious game, remember that you might just be taking a significant step toward improving your mental well-being.

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