Negative stigma continues to surround gaming, as many people perceive playing video games to be an unproductive hobby or a waste of time. Some even think video games are extremely harmful, as there is a widespread belief that gaming spurs antisocial or aggressive behaviour but they can actually build relationships. While it is important to be aware of the potential of video games to become unhealthy or addictive, engaging in video games in moderation can be very positive for an individual’s well-being.
Video games have been proven to have positive benefits on mental health, as they serve as an outlet for relieving stress and coping with difficult emotions. (For more information about various mental health conditions, click here.)
Another important aspect of gaming that is not widely discussed is the ability for video games to improve social skills and strengthen relationships.
The Social Benefits of Gaming
Many current games are centred around communicating with other players and working together to reach a common goal. Engaging in these games allows an individual to build relationships and develop various social skills such as cooperation, teamwork, patience, and exercising emotional control under stress. These characteristics are all central in maintaining healthy relationships. Studies have also shown correlation between video games and developing empathy, as people stated that video games assisted with being able to put themselves in others’ shoes. Therefore, gaming can be a powerful tool for learning to better relate with other people.
Engaging in a gaming community also provides an avenue for nurturing social connection. Many individuals find gaming with others to be a safe space for building authentic friendships and decreasing isolation particularly during times of social distancing. Gaming allows for new connections to form with individuals residing in other states or even other countries. Research has shown video games to be a safe, low-pressure space to converse with others and make friends, particularly for individuals who are living with an autism spectrum disorder, social anxiety or face other challenges in social settings.
Gaming as a Bonding Opportunities for Relationships
Try incorporating gaming as an unique way to bond with your significant other and/or children to help build relationships!
Gaming with your partner allows you to bond through creating new virtual memories together. It can increase feelings of closeness and enhance communication skills as you work as a team towards a common objective. It also allows the opportunity to practice supporting and encouraging each other through challenges faced during the game. Some games you and your partner might consider playing include Overcooked, Portal, Stardew Valley and Borderlands.
Studies have shown that playing video games together as a family increases feelings of family satisfaction and closeness. Jackbox and Mario Party are good family friendly options. It is always important to keep the age of children in consideration when selecting a game that will be appropriate for them.
Maintaining a Healthy Balance
As with everything, moderation is key. Video games can have positive benefits on one’s mental and social health if used appropriately. If video games are used in excess, it can become unhealthy and take a negative toll on one’s well-being and relationships. It is important to recognize if/when gaming has become an unhealthy form of escapism, or if it is interfering with the ability to carry out daily responsibilities.
If you are concerned about the potential of video game addiction or you believe that your gaming habits could be negatively impacting your life, reach out for support from a mental health professional.
Gaming as an Avenue for Connection
Playing video games holds numerous benefits for establishing important social skills, building and strengthening relationships. These findings challenge the notion that video games are an excuse to be antisocial and shut off the outside world. In fact, gaming allows many people to more meaningfully engage with others, creating new connections around the world as well as growing bonds with those in the same household.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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