Video games therapeutic and stress busting

29 Apr 2008

Puzzle-solving games that distract and engage players, such as Bejewelled 2 have been proven to reduce stress levels by 54pc when tested against a control group, according to research carried out by PopCap Games, which has offices in Dublin.

Symptoms including depression, tension and other mood-related disorders were observed and tracked as test subjects played several casual games and it was found that Peggle, a simple 2D arcade game, had great effect, reducing the level of psychological tension in those tested by 66pc on average.

Interestingly, both Peggle and Bejewelled 2 reduced anger in those tested, but worked best on female participants, reducing their anger by a whopping 86pc.

Dr Caremen Russoniello from East Carolina University in the US carried out the research and will be publishing the results of the therapeutic value of video games in a peer-reviewed journal.

“The results of this study are impressive and intriguing, given the extent of the effects of the games on subjects’ stress levels and overall mood.

“When coupled with the very high degree of confidence we have in those results based on the methodology and technologies used, I believe there is a wide range of therapeutic applications of casual games in mood-related disorders such as depression and in stress-related disorders, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, Dr Russoniello said this study is merely a first step and much more needs to be done before video games could ever be used as part of treatment for a medical condition.

“These exciting results confirm anecdotal evidence that people are playing casual video games to improve their mood and decrease their stress, and herald casual games’ potential in health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment of stress- and mood-related disorders,” he concluded.

By Marie Boran