Why Gamers Are Finding it Harder To De-Stress
Are video games actually good for us? Many cheeky teens will certainly have argued that they are in a bid to persuade parents of the need to buy them the latest console or game and the arguments are well rehearsed.
Gaming can be an escape from the real world and worries about relationships, money or health, it can help hand-eye co-ordination and develop problem solving skills. The right game can be a good social experience too and gaming can, in some areas, be an awful lot safer than playing out on the streets. It can also lead to the development of technical skills – with many people able to use their knowledge to develop their own games.
There’s a truth to be had in all of these arguments but one pillar of the case for gaming is coming under scrutiny. The idea that gaming can help you to escape and ‘de-stress’ is being challenged, with many gamers showing signs that the opposite might well be true.
One of the of reasons, according to critics, is the nature of the content of many popular games. A team of psychologists in America recently conducted a study and found a link between violent shoot-em-up games and aggressive behaviour in the real world. Indeed, it found that people playing these games are more likely to commit crimes too.
Dr Mark Appelbaum, of the American Psychological Association, said that the nature of violent games is also likely to reduce empathy and sensitivity to aggression. Perhaps, therefore, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to suggest that gamers subjected to a stream of violence are unlikely to be relaxed by the experience and while it’s unfair to say that everyone who plays violent games will become aggressive as a result – and there is research which challenges these findings – it is worth considering the effect on someone’s mental state and outlook.
Gaming might be a social experience in many cases, but this can come with a side effect. The pressure to keep up with friends, not to ‘let the side down’ in team games and to own and succeed with the latest titles is more intense than ever, played out through the prism of social media.
Linked to this is the issue of cyber bullying. This is far from unique to the realm of gaming, but does manifest itself here. Many titles feature messaging systems where gamers can be in constant contact with other players and this can easily spill into abuse. If you’re facing a constant barrage of negative messages while gaming, it’s to be expected that this will play on your mind afterwards.
The peer pressure and cyber bullying are all linked to the fact that gaming is also a highly competitive world. The best and brightest gamers can now compete in high-stakes competitions in which serious money is up for grabs. For some people, gaming goes far beyond a bit of fun and a sense of escapism, but these rewards can bring a sense of stress too.
The chance to win big money can create a level of stress, but so can the wider issue of money in the world of gaming too. The latest games and consoles do not come cheaply and an addicted gamer can very quickly rack up big bills. That’s especially the case with many smartphone games, which have in-app purchases that can carry a significant cost.
Whether it’s money, peer pressure, cyber bullying, violent content or high stakes competition, there’s much in the world of gaming that can lead to stress. We shouldn’t think that all of this wipes out any of the benefits of gaming – but it’s important to recognise the downsides and have an honest conversation about them to avoid an escalation of stress among gamers.