Much has been written about video games, and quite a good deal of it is negative. We’ve emphasized that video games are creating our kids less social and more violent, and making us all more stressed. There has been significant research on the topic, and some fantastic news has come out of it: Video games can really be helpful for our anxiety levels!

Most players report that playing video games–even violent games–is a way to ease stress and enjoy playing with friends.

However, much of the study conducted on video games comes with the presumption that matches are stressful or even emotionally harmful. While this isn’t the whole story, there is some evidence to support that assumption.

Some studies reveal that a stressful in-game scenario leads players to undergo a stress reaction in real life. Other studies have found that when folks play violent games, they are more likely to act aggressively in laboratory-based scenarios. As an example, gamers who played violent games for 20 minutes were more likely to burst a loud noise at a different subject when given the chance, which had been considered an indicator of aggression.

Another study found that teens who played violent games experienced minimal increases in feelings of aggression, even although the gains were barely detectable; teen girls experienced a minor increase in anxiety.

Much of the research which has found a link between video game violence and aggression does not really demonstrate a clear connection between exposure to in-game violence and real-life aggression. (For example, the majority of individuals are video game players are not walking about blasting strangers with loud noises after playing their games; this is something mainly found in laboratory settings where subjects are asked to do so.)

Similarly, while there might be some stress responses triggered by matches, overall self-assessments provided by gamers failed to demonstrate a link between problems with social life, academic behaviour, work behavior, or physical reactions (anxiety), demonstrating that, if there is a negative impact, gamers themselves are not aware of it and its consequences in their lives.

1 study analyzed players as they played either competitive or cooperative games. As predicted, there was a difference in stress levels after playing, and individuals who played cooperatively experienced a greater reduction in stress levels, but the difference was minor–both groups experienced declines in anxiety by playing the match. In addition, both teams retained positive opinions toward the other players, though there was a marginally higher regard for individuals who were cooperative. That is another way in that video games can offer positive social experiences along with a decrease in stress.

Another study used a survey of 1614 game players to inspect the usage of computer games as a tool for stress recovery. Results showed that games are indeed used as a working tool after exposure to stressful circumstances and strain, which this “recovery experience” is a significant facet of the gaming experience.

Researchers also analyzed the relationships among work-related fatigue, daily hassles, social support, coping style, healing experience, and using a computer and video games for recovery purposes and discovered that people who more strongly associated gameplay with stress recovery used video and computer games more frequently after stressful and exhausting scenarios.

The relationship between work-related fatigue and game use for recovery purposes was moderated by social support. These participants showed a stronger relationship between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery than participants receiving more social support.

The most useful strategies were those that either sought a resolution to the negative feelings (either by problem-solving or by using personal coping strategies) or ones that sound out social support from other players. In fact, most games reward players for being able to manage their emotions and work toward solutions in the face of stress.

In understanding what worked best for these gamers, we can use this information in our own lives: developing our own interoceptive awareness and using it to maintain emotional balance is a vital part of healthy coping.

Another study also showed that action-based video games not only reduce stress but can sharpen cognitive abilities such as reaction speed. This can help gamers think more quickly on their feet and likely be more proficient in problem-solving, which can reduce stress in other ways as well.

Recommended Video Games

Casual Games: These games can be picked up and played for a few minutes, and then put down again. They can include simple challenges, short matches of gameplay, or the ability to stop and save at any time. Casual games are enjoyable because they can offer a quick break, a challenging-but-not-stressful experience, and a change in focus. Some casual games include Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, or Pokemon X for the 3DS, or this list of casual games for the computer.

Cooperative Games: These games involve challenges that can be completed with other players. There are several benefits to this. The main benefit is that players can create a network of friends through the game, which can be comforting and be empowering. We enjoyed playing games with friends when we were young, and this need doesn’t necessarily go away in adulthood.

Another benefit of cooperative gameplay such as covet fashion cheats┬áis that players can help one another, offering symbolic support and enabling one another to develop problem-solving skills. These positive experiences and “wins” can feel empowering and build resilience to stress. As subjects have reported, cooperative gaming can relieve stress and create positive feelings among players. These games can be played on handheld gaming systems, over the computer, or even via social media sites like Facebook.

Games With an Explicit Stress Management Component: Some games were actually created to help players learn to manage stress more efficiently. While these games aren’t necessarily as “mainstream” as some of the others, they can be especially helpful for stress relief. Some games train players in meditation while others can even train in biofeedback, helping players build skills in these powerful stress management techniques that can be used in virtually any stressful situation.

Games that teach stress management skills are rare, but there are a few. An older game that teaches biofeedback is known as Relaxing Rhythms by Wild Devine, which uses finger sensors to provide in-game feedback. There is also a “brain-sensing headband” known as Muse, which provides feedback for meditation: you listen to nature sounds as you meditate, but once your mind begins to wonder, nature sounds become more intense until you bring your thoughts back to the present moment. This is a device that seems to fall somewhere between “sport” and “tool,” but can be fun and more interesting to many new practitioners of meditation.

Games That Build Skills: These matches may construct brain power or specific abilities. The advantage is that not only will they help to take your mind off of what is stressing you, they can enable you to construct executive function abilities which may help you to solve problems and stay organized in your routine life–skills that can relieve stress!

Skill-building games may be puzzle games (such as crossword puzzles that you can play online or on a handheld game device) or they can be games that require quick thinking. Including games such as Brain Age, Brain Age 2, Brain Age Concentration Training or Big Brain Academy, which is played on the Nintendo 3DS; WeBoggle, a Boggle game that can be played for free online; language-teaching games like My Spanish Coach, or any of a number of games which cause you to think fast.

Games You Really Enjoy: Really, any sport that you genuinely enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game which you find to be truly fun can be useful by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a means to build positive feelings. So play with it, and determine what you enjoy the most!

What to Avoid

Essentially, if you like a game, it’s most likely a fantastic stress reliever for you. Games with a strong social component, especially a combined one, can be especially beneficial as stress relief tools. Finding a game which does not require a massive time investment and permits for casual participation (instead of carrying a stiff penalty if you need to quit a match after a specific amount of time or play only for small amounts of time) may be less stressful too, for obvious reasons.