When considering gaming and gamification with mental health, it has always been a tense relationship between the two. In 2018 the WHO listed that gaming and gaming obsession is a mental health disorder.
However, with the crisis and the need for everyone to stay safe and at home, the WHO has come to the realisation that gaming can in fact help. With an initiative that they named #PlayApartTogether, they teamed up with various companies in the video game industry, to help those that feel isolated at home during the lockdown.
Some of the more recent studies that have been done into the potential of video games and mental health have started to explore their effectiveness counselling tools when dealing with depression, a possible outcome of remaining isolated for too long.
One such research study is the paper “Serious Games and Gamification for Mental Health: Current Status and Promising Directions”. The paper discusses and looks at how immersive activities that players engage with in games, with particular note for VR and AR games, and how these can enhance overall engagement for patients and improve therapeutic effects.
There are other earlier studies, such as one from the University in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, where the researchers analysed the benefits of video games and determined that they could promote the well-being of patients and improve the treatment of mental health issues.
What all these studies have shown is that possibilities of gaming in mental health can be quite extensive. Specifically, they’ve discovered that entertainment video games have shown the most effective when there is the requirement to improve mood and act as a stress/emotional relief valve. This can be seen in particular with the aforementioned WHO initiative: #PlayApartTogether.
The overarching theme of all these studies is that they certainly show that the elements within games that make them engaging, are incredibly useful in treating mental health issues and offering methods to better observe and analyse individuals in need of help.