It's game over for the old prejudices against video games, with more and more people accepting the idea they have the potential to be artful, inspirational, and – dare we say it – even life-changing. Now, further busting the idea that they’re just a fruitless pastime, a new paper in the journal Computers in Human Behavior argues that they could provide people with the change of perception they need to help them out of their depression.
The study gathered 160 students with mild depression and introduced them to six specifically designed "brain training" video games, all based on neurophysiological tasks that have been shown to improve cognitive control among people experiencing depression.
Using linguistic hints throughout the game, they subtly “implanted” messages to the player that denoted ways their depression could be viewed – either as an internal biological phenomenon or something external and social, such as a bad life experience.
The authors believe that the brain training exercises that were geared towards portraying depression as internal gave the players more agency over their depression, making them feel ilke they could do something to control the problem.
This type of research is very much in its infancy and the study only serves as groundwork. This study, in particular, was quite limited in its scope, as it didn’t look to see whether there was any testable benefit for the participants.
Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating idea. Numerous other studies have pointed in the same direction as this paper, finding that video games hold a huge amount of potential for well-being, mental health, and cognitive ability in old age. More research needs to be done, but this burgeoning media form undoubtedly has a lot to offer.