Are Video Games Therapeutic?

Are Video Games Therapeutic?

Ever since video games first started appealing to an audience, people have been debating whether they are harmful or helpful to those who play them. I mean, I remember when I was a kid, grownups liked to utter the phrase "video games rot your brain" while shaking their fingers at us disapprovingly. But as the years went on, people actually started doing, you know, scientific research on this stuff, and they managed to find quite a few positive things to say about them. Take that, Mom. Are you really prepared to argue with science?

It was ages ago when they started finding a correlation between greatly improved eye-hand coordination and playing video games. Much more recently, though, there are studies suggesting that video games have a tendency to make players more creative, better at decision-making skills, and just all around cooler people. Okay, so I may have added that last one myself.

But that's not to say the results have been all good. As my fellow Cheat Code Central writer Robert VerBruggen pointed out in an article not too long ago, video game addiction is a real thing, and there are people who actually need to seek help to overcome this addiction. It can be downright crippling to some people, in fact.

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And then there are the extreme cases. You know the headlines: "Couple Ignores Sick Child for Video Game Binge," and the more extreme, "Man Dies at Keyboard While Playing Video Game." These types of stories serve as warnings for those of us who could probably work on being more social, or else eat a few less donuts and maybe go for a bike ride once in a while. And that's fair. I mean, it's not like there haven't been cases of obesity tied to video games, after all.

But still, in the hands of those who can play without becoming addicted or unhealthy, video games can be a good thing. Many of us would even say that playing games is therapeutic. I mean, sometimes you just have a bad day at work or school and you just need to go home and blow off steam by shooting people in the face in Modern Warfare 3. It's certainly a lot healthier than shooting people in the face in real life.

Now, I'm no psychologist, and I'm in no way qualified to make statements about what video games do to a person psychologically. However, from my personal experience, I've often found games as a healthy outlet while dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. For example, Final Fantasy VII came out during a very hard period of my life, where I was trying to deal with my parents' divorce while moving to a new school. Coming home and playing FF7 was how I dealt with a lot of the negativity I felt at that point in my life. The game world was so engaging, the characters so real to me, I could forget my problems for a few hours at a time and just calm down as I lost myself in the game.


And I know I'm not a rare case. There are thousands of gamers out there who have come forward and said that a particular video game was the reason they were able to get through some of life's rough patches.

Is that healthy, though? Is it truly okay to get lost in a fantasy world for hours at a time? Well, again, I'm not qualified to make any absolute statements here, but in my personal opinion, I'd say it is. I mean, it's not like there haven't been engaging forms of entertainment throughout much of civilized human history. We lose ourselves in video games today the same way people used to go nuts over radio programs, novels, or poetry. I'm pretty sure that if Emily Dickenson were in her teens or twenties today, she'd probably play a lot of games. Edger Allen Poe? Probably a big survival horror guy. Orson Welles? I don't know why, but I can see him getting into BioShock.

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Of course, there are landfills of broken controllers that stand as a valid counterargument to this point. Some people just like to rage out and break things when they get frustrated by a video game. Then again, do people who aren't already prone to rage break things when they play video games? I guess I don't know for certain, but my gut is telling me probably not. And also that I should probably eat a sandwich soon.

So what's the verdict? Do video games rot your brain? Probably not. Can they be good for you? Probably. You just need to game carefully and watch out for symptoms of game addiction.

Oh yeah, and in the meantime, try not to throw that controller against the wall, okay?

Josh Wirtanen
Editor / News Director
Date: June 18, 2012

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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