Mindshare: Mind Over Play—The Psychological Benefits of Playing Video Games

This discussion was originally written as an assignment for my Psychology class. Several of the sources cited are walled off, and thus inaccessible to most. In addition, some parts of this discussion contain spoilers for a few games.

What is a video game? That is an excellent question. Video games are a rising form of entertainment that centers on human interaction within an experience, taking place on your television, smartphone, tablet, or computer monitor. Games are unlike any other form of media out there, from music and novels, to movies and television. Imagine watching The Empire Strikes Back and you reach the scene where Darth Vader asks Luke Skywalker to “join him on the Dark Side,” there’s an option you choose that makes him answer with “Ok,” and the scene plays out from that one decision. What makes them so great is that the audience is an active participant in the experience, rather than witnessing the exploits of the character. You’re not merely watching someone do his or her lines; you are that person, deciding what happens throughout the story. They have been around since 1971 and they will continue to remain relevant for decades onward.

Recently, however, they have been the subject of media outcries and various scientific and psychological experiments that aim to determine if video games are more destructive to us or not. As unfortunate as that is, we have to see past those notions and look at the benefits these video games have on our lives, and there are certainly a great many of them: coping with and curing depression, improving one's ability to remember and learn (particularly in education), relieving stress, reducing aggression, improving hand-eye coordination, reaction time, motor skills, eyesight, reducing the aging process. It is impossible to fathom how deep this rabbit hole goes. But for the sake of this discussion, we’re focusing on the first four—starting with video games as a cure for depression.

Video Games as an Aid to Depression and Anxiety

In the last few years, various news outlets have scapegoated video games for being a link to recent crimes and murders throughout the United States, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the U.S. Navy Yard shooting. In addition, studies from across various universities and government-funded experiments have continued to find that video games can increase aggression in an individual, making them more violent, and even become addicted to the games. However, there have been an equal amount of studies that highlight the opposite of the previous studies: video games do not increase aggression, games are not a narcotic, etc. What is seldom discussed and investigated in these studies are the benefits that video games have on people’s lives.

For instance, video games are a great method of helping those with depression, more so than, arguably, therapeutic counseling. Depression is an incredibly devastating condition for anyone to have, whether it’s kids or adults. Yet, despite its destructive power, fewer than one in five teenagers are given treatment. For many, counseling can be expensive, with sessions ranging from $200 to $250 per hour—and that’s just for one session for a given day; whereas purchasing a video game console and a game or two can cost between $260-$520—without any frequent, periodical costs.

What makes video games work as an agent in fighting depression is that they give you full control of the world around you; you have absolute control of the situation. While people believe that video games are addictive to the point of social withdrawal, they’re actually an invaluable trait for those going through depression. Games let them become something more than what they are. Video games aren’t addictive so much as they are compelling; you can be a heroic knight, a one-man army, or a rock-n-roll god.

Would you rather pay exorbitant fees to go through this every day, or play a video game you like that can help you?


In fact, in June 2013, researchers in New Zealand created a video game that helps patients with their depression in a fun and compelling manner. SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts) is an online video game—free of charge—that delivers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to patients suffering from depression. In the game, players have to destroy GNATs (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts) to restore balance to the world. The intention of the game is to get the patients to learn that the GNATs are evil and harmful to the world around them, and to expunge the gloomy, negative and depressive thoughts inside them, thus stopping the rumination of their depression. When they stop buying the idea that everyone hates them or that they have no place in the real world, they realize that the GNATs are not statements about reality, but rather twisted thoughts manipulated by one’s own depression.

A study was conducted on 168 teenagers, averaging at 15 years of age, seeking help for their depression from various therapies, health clinics, school guidance counselors, and primary care doctors. Since women are the most prevalent with depression, about two thirds of the subjects were comprised of girls. Half of the group was given regular treatment from one-on-one counseling over the course of five sessions—the control group—while the other half was given SPARX as their treatment for five sessions—the experimental group. After the five sessions were done, 26 percent of the control group who were given counseling completely recovered from their depression. However, the ones who were given SPARX as their treatment had a significant increase in recovery, with 44 percent of the experimental group showing signs of recovery. A similar experiment was conducted on adults, and found that computerized CBT was as effective as regular treatment via counseling.

SPARX helps people fight their depression.

Linked Wellness

Video games can help deal with the harshness of the world, even if the game isn’t intended to deliver CBT. Such was the case for a young man who was forced to face his depression dead in the eye after a major update was rolled out. He wrote anonymously on Kotaku as a guest about his struggles with severe depression, how he has “suicidal thoughts regularly,” and his numerous attempts to end his own life, only for them to be foiled by himself.

“My primary reason for existing,” he wrote, “has been those parts of my entertainment that I enjoy the most, and nothing more.”

He expressed that when he sees change as bad, he thinks about committing suicide. He even wrote that “for most of my adult life I didn't buckle my seat belt when I drove.” His depression was put to the test after an update was implemented in Star Wars: The Old Republic, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) set in the Star Wars universe. In the update, a specific ability for his class was nerfed, or made less effective. Initially, the update hit him hard. But what struck him as shocking was what he was thinking at the time: he didn’t want to kill himself, but instead adapted to the changes.

“When [the developers] made those changes to SWTOR, I didn't think about committing suicide. But I did consider not playing the game anymore. That was a shocking twist for me, because I love SWTOR. I have spent more time playing this game than any other in my life. But [the developers] had betrayed me, I thought. My groove was no longer valid, and considering that [the classes I played] have the best stories, lore-wise, in the game, I felt like if I had to give them up it might be too painful to continue playing other [characters]."

"After about an hour of that thought rolling around in my head, I realized just how ridiculous that was. All I had to do to continue enjoying these characters would be to change [the way I play]… Now that my [play style] was no longer valid, I could add [unused abilities] back into the rotation, and things would be fine.”

Even a video game that isn't intended to fight anxiety and/or depression helped someone who did.


“This is the oppressive, crushing dread of being truly alone.”

– Ben Croshaw in his Zero Punctuation critique of Silent Hill 2

We know that video games provide a way to not only entertain through interaction, but to help those who are stricken with depression and anxiety—but what about games that elicit an emotional and psychological response from the audience? This is where video games shine the brightest. Let’s use horror as an example. In a movie like, say, the original Saw, The Blair Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity, the filmmaker’s goal is to do one thing: to scare the audience. But that’s the only extent the scare has: to induce fear in the audience, and then move on to the next scary scene. Whereas in horror games like Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil, and Outlast, the scares are meant to not only scare the audience, but to force them to react and fight back against the terror. As discussed in the beginning, games are meant to provide interaction to the story rather than having the audience watch the story unfold before them.

While the discussion is still on the subject of depression and anxiety, I‘d like to talk about my favorite game of all time—a game that is a beautiful example of a player-character relationship: Dark Souls. The quote used in the previous page sums up Dark Souls, and he even described the game’s tone and atmosphere using a similar description.

Just to give a brief synopsis of the game, Dark Souls is set in a dark fantasy setting where all the mighty heroes, deities, and rulers have either abandoned everyone or have gone insane after the entropic decay of the universe from the undead outbreak. The undead are cursed humans who cannot die by normal means—they can still die, but they are revived like a phoenix, giving them a sort of “immortal” status. You play as an undead, trapped inside a jail cell, when a mysterious knight throws a key into the cell and flees. You escape and fight your way through the horde of other undead men and women, who are beyond your help, to discover that the knight who helped you escape is dead. You escape from the prison and begin the search for a cure to stop the curse inflicted upon you.

What makes Dark Souls such an incredible experience is of two things: the brutality of the enemies the player fights and its reflective-surface storytelling. When you leave the prison, you find that all of society has collapsed; everyone is out for your head, and the ones that aren’t trying to murder you are just as mentally damaged as the enemies you fight. Throughout your journey, you’ll find people with a faint glimmer of humanity still within their soul, some of which are willing to aid you in your journey, if only for a brief and terse amount of time.

An undead merchant.

Dark Souls wikia.

The world is beautifully silent, with the sounds of swords, shields, magic, footsteps, and the monsters that stand before you filling the emptiness. Every second of your time is mostly spent all alone, with nothing but your trusty weapon and shield keeping the ravenous nightmares from claiming your precious souls. A large part of the game centers on the concept of souls, the universal currency of the game. They serve a multitude of tasks: they’re used to purchase gear, magic, miracles, and pyromancy from other individuals, upgrade your gear, repair said gear, and level up. These souls are vital to your survival against these enemies, but what makes them even more precious is how the game punishes death—which plays into the reflective-surface storytelling mentioned above.

Your character has two forms depending on what conditions are met: human form and hollowed form, a stage of being an undead where you lose your sanity and turn into a decomposed abomination. All undead will eventually lose their mind and go hollow. When you die, you go hollow and lose all of your souls. All of them. But the loss of your souls is only temporary, as you leave behind a bloodstain seconds before you died that contain your souls, giving you a chance to reclaim them. If you die before reaching your bloodstain, you lose those previous souls forever, replacing the previous bloodstain with the new one. This is where the development of the character reflects back onto the player. As the player continues to die, they begin to lose their mind and go insane, furious and equally depressed about their continued failure. As you continue to die, your mind descends deeper into the rabbit hole of insanity and depression. Psychologically speaking, being angry results in more mistakes and less meaningful choices because your mind is clouded in anger and hatred, and the depression adds to it.

What makes the psychological drama stand out is the difficulty of the game. I know of this first hand, because I’ve played the same character for eight runs, with each successful completion increasing the amount of health all enemies have and how hard they hit you. So defeating an enemy on the eighth run is like stopping a freight train with jet thrusters on each cart with your bare hands. If it were easy, the deaths would have no meaning. Nothing has been gained, and nothing has been earned. Life is all about falling down and failing. You cannot learn without failure. If the world let you skip the toughest parts of life and then moved you straight to the greatest joys of it, the achievement is lost entirely.

But it isn’t all gloom and madness. The most uplifting moment in the journey comes from its seemingly trivial moments: overcoming a difficult trial, especially the boss fights. When you take down a boss that has continuously flattened your face into the floor, there’s a sudden rush of euphoria that sets you on fire as you scream with joy and excitement at taking down that one enemy you could not defeat. After the fight is over, you are given a large amount of souls and a piece of humanity, a black sprite used to revert to human form. You forget everything that happened beforehand and you start off with a clean, emotional and psychological slate. You feel like you’ve won tens of millions of dollars from the lottery.

Who would have thought these words would make you feel so satisfied.

Giant Bomb

Video Games as a Stress Reliever

Now that we’re out of the swamp of depression and insanity, let’s move on to another topic that was discussed near the beginning: video games tackling aggression and stress disorders. This is the hardest topic to delve into, because dozens of experiments and studies point to two sides of the same coin. On one hand, studies have shown that video games increase aggression in young teens and adults; but on the other hand, there are studies stating that video games do not increase aggression in individuals. So the question still remains at this point: do video games cause aggression?

Personally, I don’t believe video games cause violence or increase aggression and stress. Well, I say that after writing my lengthy discussion of Dark Souls, but I still believe that they don’t result in thoughts of violence or aggressive behavior. I actually think they reduce the impulsive behavior that leads to aggression. Video games are like virtual punching bags or stress balls, where someone can squeeze that ball or punch as hard as they can, but it’s not going to break. This is especially true for games that are intended to put the audience in a state of meditative relaxation, like Journey, Flower, or Sign of the Magupta.

How relaxing.


The same is also true for simpler, more casual games—games that are more readily accessible to a larger, more casual audience. An experiment was conducted to determine if playing casual games could reduce stress and improve mood. The experiment was tested on 101 individuals (57 females, 44 males, average age of 24 years). The control group was given a task to search the Internet for health related articles to put in a folder on the desktop, while the experimental group was given a choice of three casual games—Bejeweled 2, Peggle, or Bookworm Adventures—to play; both groups were given a time of twenty minutes to complete their respective tasks. Both groups were hooked with sensors that tracked left and right frontal lobe alpha power.

For clarity, increased alpha power in the left hemisphere results in negative mood and increased depression and avoidance/withdrawal behaviors, while decreased amounts result in the opposite; increased alpha power in the right hemisphere results in better mood and an increase in approach/engage behaviors, while decreased amounts result in negative moods.

In the final results, it was revealed that playing casual games not only improved mood, but also showed that brain waves varied uniquely based on what games were being played, with Bejeweled 2 showing the biggest improvement. It was also revealed that playing casual games dramatically reduced anger when compared to the control group.

This game will help you reduce your stress and aggression levels.

Big Fish Games

“Participating in [casual video games] produces changes in brain waves consistent with improved mood. Remarkably, different games affected brain waves in unique ways. For example, [Bejeweled 2] players experienced significant decreases in left alpha power when compared to controls. Participants who played [Peggle] experienced significant increases in right alpha power while playing… there was a very large difference between [Peggle] and control groups. Playing [Bookworm Adventures] significantly improved the right/left brain alpha ratio[,] another indicator of improved mood and the changes were significantly different from control.”

But these psychological experiments for reducing stress and aggression aren’t solely limited to your everyday individual; they’re also the results of virtual simulators for soldiers recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) created the Virtual PTSD Experience, a simulation meant to provide education on combat related Post Traumatic Stress. It’s set in a mall with different activities relating to PTSD. For instance, one of the activities centers on a mattress. If the user lies on the mattress, a video is displayed, showing the events prior to entering the mall, giving information on trauma-related nightmares and sleep disturbances. The event in question is an activity where the subject drives in an armored Humvee through a battlefield, gunfire and explosions blaring all around.

The T2 Virtual PTSD Experience.


“[This is] the first true AAA drama, where we’re engaged through the exploration of a mental state, rather than simply satisfied by achieving a goal.”

– Extra Credits discussing Spec Ops: The Line

War loses all meaning in entertainment when everyone acts all giddy and joyous about the act of killing their fellow man. Case in point, movies like Die Hard or The Expendables, or video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Why do people glorify war when it’s abundantly clear that being a soldier is the last thing anyone would want to do in their life? It’s utterly disgraceful and embarrassing that most of the entertainment industry paints war in a positive light when we’re not taking into account the ones giving their lives for a pointless cause that started because of petty trifle and squabble. Thanks to studios like Yager Development, we’re reminded of what war is truly about: an uncaring and unavoidable dystopia of hatred, misery, and death.

Does this seem like fun?

Pacific Med Research

Spec Ops: The Line was an eye opener for me for many reasons; the biggest one of all was the story, which psychologically plays games with the audience. It’s even one of the few games I’ve played where I was physically sick to my stomach, which says a lot. The first thing that comes charging out the gate is the one aspect that is omnipresent throughout the entire game: it’s not fun—extremely gripping and engaging, but not fun. It’s the one thing that exists as the silver platter for its underlying message—which I’ll save for later.

Spec Ops: The Line is meant to be a satire of the gung-ho, America bravado films and video games, like the ones mentioned above, going as far as examining the genre it represents and criticizes it. I’d argue that this is akin to The Great Gatsby or the Schindler’s List of its idiom. It is an oppressive and brutal journey through the inner depths of humanity’s inner demons.

The game is inspired by Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the same book that inspired Apocalypse Now; they even name the antagonist Konrad to make sure you remember it. There are two themes that remain constant throughout the story: post-traumatic stress disorder and how far removed modern entertainment depicts war when compared to what it really is. You play as Captain Martin Walker, a soldier in the U.S. Army sent to Dubai with a small fireteam to evacuate civilians from the war-torn city. Everything is going well as you shoot your way through armed foreigners, when the least likely adversary attacks you: other U.S. soldiers. I have to say, green lighting this game took balls. It’s not your standard Iraqi, Russian, Nazi, or terrorist villains, but U.S. soldiers. Anyway, you fight your way through soldier after soldier, seeking answers to why they’re trying to kill you.

The first part that really stood out to me was the first time I was physically sick, nearing the brink of vomiting and eventually did after it was finished—which is an extremely powerful feeling, if masochistic. At one point, Walker and his squad are forced to use white phosphorus on a large company of soldiers in order to proceed. What follows is a sight worse than the deepest nightmares seeded within us all.

They walk through the aftermath of the destruction they wrought, soldiers with their limbs brutally eviscerated from their bodies as they try to claw their way to safety from the white, miasma cloud. “Kill me, please,” one soldier pleaded to me. “Why did this happen,” another whimpered, dying immediately at Walker’s feet. But that’s just the beginning… They discover, to their horror, that they killed a large group of civilians in the rampage. The victims they killed are burned beyond recognition, striking a closer resemblance to ghouls than humans.

What have I done?


Now this is where I inject the psychological aspects of the story into this piece. Throughout the game, Walker and his squad encounter a good amount of people on their journey, willing to help them out when things get ugly. Occasionally, a character will converse with Walker—but there’s a much more sinister twist to this: the game will periodically break the fourth wall and speak not to Walker, but you the player because this isn’t an experience that’s just taking place on your screen; you are an active participant in the story.

“This is your fault, goddamnit,” one of my squad mates shouted at me in anger. “He turned us into fucking killers!” I felt like utter garbage after that. After that, Walker descends into a downward spiral of insanity, with the emotional status of his men following suit.

So I wrote near the beginning of the Spec Ops discussion that the game not being fun ties integrally into the story. This is why it works incredibly well. The juxtaposition of the serious narrative with the obvious and overtly game-like play makes you feel like something is wrong; the banal gameplay makes you feel the uncanny nature of the game. That “fun” gameplay experience is meant to give you a psychic disconnection from the character. The game’s theme of PTSD is squarely dependent on you feeling uncomfortable with the actual play experience. It’s designed to make you feel uncomfortable, while eventually getting numb to the actions you perform. You feel like something is wrong with Walker, and you feel that through the dissociative gameplay.

The second of these revelations came near the end, when it slowly became clear what the message was all about. Before that, though, the game gives you small messages in the loading screens—the process in which content is loaded onto the screen, with tips placed in them for you to read—that are beyond strange. Messages intended to be informative tips end up developing into deep, psychological profiling comments addressed to you. Comments like:

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

How many Americans have you killed today?

This is all your fault.

You are still a good person.

If Lugo (one of your squad members) were still alive, he would likely suffer from PTSD. So, really, he’s the lucky one.

If you were a better person, you wouldn’t be here.

To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is heroic. To kill for entertainment is harmless.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously.

That last one, about cognitive dissonance, is the one that stood out the most to me. It’s saying that you killing those soldiers is normal, because it’s a game and that’s what you’re supposed to do. But with the knowledge that the developers set up throughout the game, deep down inside your subconscious, you realize that what you’re doing is wrong, and that you shouldn’t be killing those U.S. soldiers. Near the end of the game, characters begin talking about games and escaping reality. At this point, the game has taken off the gloves—all bets are off. The story is no longer about what’s going on in this fictional virtual world you play in, but instead what’s happening outside of it. By talking about video games, they set the player up for the biggest and ruthless string of punches in all of gaming.

Your life isn't real; it is an illusion manipulated by a higher entity who controls your every action.


And then we reach that very end, when you encounter Konrad. Throughout the course of the game, Walker’s goal was to find and kill Konrad for what he’s done to everyone in Dubai. After slaughtering hundreds upon thousands of U.S. soldiers, Walker learns that Konrad has been dead all this time, but he’s still physically there, talking to you. Then, he gives this speech, aimed directly at the player like a gun to someone’s head.

“None of this would have happened if you just stopped. But on you marched, and for what? You’re no savior. Your talents lie elsewhere. [It] takes a strong man to deny what’s right in front of him, and if the truth is undeniable, you create your own. The truth, Walker, is that you’re here because you wanted to feel like something you’re not: a hero. I’m here because you can’t accept what you’ve done; it broke you. You needed someone to blame, so you cast it on me, a dead man. I know the truth is hard to hear, Walker, but it’s time. You’re all that’s left, and we can’t live this lie forever.”

Keep that underlined part of the quote in mind. Almost every video game is based around the idea of building fantasy, becoming something you’re not. In most first-person or third-person shooters, the developers build the framework around making the player feel powerful as they charge through waves of enemies that only they can overcome. Yet, Spec Ops, a shooter, looks at that and laughs at the player for how pathetic that fantasy is. It openly mocks the player for longing to be something bigger than what we are. The game critiques and even eviscerates the very genre it tries to be. It is the most powerful message in the story, and everything leading up to that point reinforces that statement.

This is what I love about video games: they can tackle incredibly deep topics through the interaction that other forms of entertainment would dare not venture into, and Spec Ops is an amazing example of a story with a powerful message behind it.

Video Games as a Catalyst to Education

“The United States’ education system is a joke.” I learned that from someone who teaches basic English to Japanese students. And that person is right: we’re not even in the top 20 in the global educational ranking, which is really bad. The problem with education that stands now is that there’s a lack of motivation to learn. Schools have punished students for doing poorly, which in turn results in less creativity and risks taken in their assignments—in a world where people work to make one of two things: tools and art, both of which involve very creative minds to make, especially in this technological revolution we’re entering.

Video games have an untapped potential at reinvigorating education in the United States and beyond. Even now, scientists and psychologists are exploring the use of video games as a medium in education. Before that, there have been plenty of games intended for educational purposes rather than entertainment. What makes video games so fascinating in the context of learning is that they make it fun and engaging without bogging the user down in boatloads of text and exercises. Games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The Clue Finders, and Reading Blaster are great examples of video games as an educational medium.

This brings back so many memories.


Another example of a video game intentionally created for education is Immune Attack, a first-person strategy game developed by the Federation of American Scientists, Brown University, and the University of Southern California to teach complex biology and immunology subjects to students. In it, you play a teenage prodigy with an immunodeficiency. Players are tasked to teach this individual’s immune system how to properly function, or else the host will die. It sort of plays like a first-person shooter without guns, where the player fights off various pathogens and viral infections while teaching different immune cells how to stop the infections. Through the intense and engaging gameplay, the user learns more and more about the human immune system and various infections in ways that reading a textbook covering the same material would just not work.

Unfortunately, not all games are intended to educate, which is the big problem when looking at the majority of games put out by the big corporations within the industry, as games in this category are generally created for entertainment rather than education. But that doesn’t mean that these video games can’t teach something to the player. For instance, the ability to learn from a referential source is a great way to pique an audience’s curiosity. Case in point, tangential learning—learning through referential curiosity in a context an individual is already engaged in. Let’s take the comic book series Fables as an example. It’s clearly not trying to educate, yet everyone who reads it knows who the Big Bad Wolf is, what Little Boy Blue is, or who King Arthur is. It’s all thanks to the setting and context of the story that allows the audience to dig deeper into these characters and themes: the bustling streets of New York City ripe with fantastical characters, spells, and detective work—a fantasy based on reality. Intrigued? The audience was exposed to something they didn’t think they would have been interested in, which is a major breakthrough in learning.

...and speaking of which...

New Sanctuary

Another great example, tying back to video games, is a series I love: Final Fantasy. The series is filled with various biblical, religious, mythological, and folklore figures and settings. From the top of my head, here are the names of figures the player encounters throughout the series: Odin, Sleipnir, Ifrit, Garuda, Bahamut, Shiva, Gilgamesh, Alexander, Ramuh, Leviathan, Asura, Carbuncle, Phoenix, Titan, Fenrir, Siren, and Hades. This is just scratching the surface of what’s in the games.

To delve deeper into tangential learning, I’ll discuss my favorite character in the series: Gilgamesh. In the games, Gilgamesh is a silly, cowardly, but equally power warrior who is obsessed with swords; specifically, collecting swords from other combatants in a duel with the following rules: the winner takes the loser’s best sword. More often than not, he will flee from battle if he is losing a fight. He is normally depicted as a fairly tall humanoid, with two to four arms, but can have as many as eight arms, each brandishing a unique sword. His ultimate goal is to find the strongest sword of all: Excalibur. Unfortunately, he often finds and mistakes the “Sword of Legend” with a cheap knockoff of the sword, humorously and famously called Excalipoor.

Outside of the game, however, Gilgamesh was actually the king of Uruk, Mesopotamia who ruled around the time of 2800 to 2500 BC. He is also the protagonist in the Mesopotamian epic poem, Epic of Gilgamesh, a story about how Gilgamesh came to power and Enkidu, a demigod who is sent by the gods to stop Gilgamesh from oppressing his citizens (who is also in the games as his faithful sidekick), where they become close friends after a major battle and go on to fight big monsters until Enkidu dies by the gods. After the death of his companion, Gilgamesh embarks on a quest to find the secret of eternal life, but is unable to find it and dies, his legacy living on even in death. None of this was looked up—all of that was from memory of what I read in the past. That is tangential learning at its best.

The Gilgamesh of reality.



Video games will have a massive and irreproachable impact on human society, far bigger than people let on. They are so much more than just games—they are a gateway into a world of possibilities. Personally speaking, I believe that these video games are going to be a massive stepping-stone in the evolution of our species—not just physically, but mentally and psychologically.


APA: The Benefits of Playing Video Games

Fernández-Aranda, Fernando, et al. "Video Games As A Complementary Therapy Tool In Mental Disorders: Playmancer, A European Multicentre Study." Journal Of Mental Health 21.4 (2012): 364-374. CINAHL with Full Text. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.

Time: Study-Playing a Video Game Helps Teens Beat Depression

BMJ 2012;344:e2598

Andrews G., Cuijpers P., Craske M.G., McEvoy P., Titov N. (2010) “Computer therapy for the anxiety and depressive disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: a meta-analysis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information

Kotaku: A Simple Change To a Star Wars Video Game Helped Me Fight Depression

SILENT HILL 2 (Zero Punctuation)

Hasan, Y., Bègue, L., & Bushman, B. J. (2013). Violent Video Games Stress People Out and Make Them More Aggressive. Aggressive Behavior, 39(1), 64-70. doi:10.1002/ab.21454

Kushner, David. "Violent Video Games Do Not Cause Aggression." Video Games. Ed. Laurie Willis. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Off Target." Electronic Gaming Monthly (Aug. 2007): 12-16. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

FLC: “Virtual World” Helps With Post-traumatic Stress.

O’Brien, K., Parks, J., Russoniello, C. (2009) “The effectiveness of casual video games in improving mood and decreasing stress” Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation, Volume 2, Issue 1

Ashton, Adam. "Video game helps veterans explore post-traumatic stress anonymously." Washingtonpost.com 31 Jan. 2011. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

McIlvaine, Ron. "Virtual-reality games helping with PTSD." Soldiers Magazine Apr. 2011: 24. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Extra Credits: Spec Ops: The Line (Part 2)

NPR: U.S. Students Slide In Global Ranking On Math, Reading, Science

Ted Talks: How schools kill creativity

Annetta, L. A. (2008). Video Games in Education: Why They Should Be Used and How They Are Being Used. Theory Into Practice, 47(3), 229-239. doi:10.1080/00405840802153940

OmegaZero's picture

First off, I'd like to apologize for having been away from this site for so long. It's kind of unnerving to see all the content I've missed.

Second, this is a really good piece. A little unpolished, perhaps; it jumps around a bit and and has some grammatical errors here and there, and Walker's name in Spec Ops is Martin, not Chris, but these are irrelevant in the context and audience intended. What you're saying is pure gold and something I wish I could force others to read. You've summed up the essence of why most people play games. Congratulations; that's all there is to it, everybody can go home. There's nothing else to see.

As a side note, did you consider using Heavy Rain as a source? It may have been slightly counterproductive to your point (as it's depressing as hell) but so is Spec Ops to a point. Just curious as to how you determined which games to use.

Whiplash's picture

I picked games that center in on themes of psychological play. Spec Ops center on PTSD throughout the whole experience—PTSD being a form of anxiety and stress. Dark Souls is the perfect example of a game that gives out a depressed atmosphere, which Yahtzee described in great detail as "The Silent Hill 2 brand of atmosphere. The constant depression weighing down on you like a whale scrotum rucksack, so that the moments of victory upon killing the whale scrotum monster are all the more cathartic before another dump truck of whale scrotums descends upon your head." Heavy Rain is certainly depressing, but the game doesn't center on the theme of depression; the premise is solving a murder mystery. Whereas Spec Ops focuses on the crushing weight of what it means to take another man's life as your job in an utterly pointless cause. That carries a much larger psychological toll on an individual than figuring out who killed who.

OmegaZero's picture

Fair enough; both games are good (perhaps not enjoyable in the truest sense of the word), and I was just curious as to why you selected what you did. Again, well done article.

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