When you think about the world of online games and gaming, what are the first thoughts that pop into your head? Frequently we go to the perils and pitfalls of gaming – at best it is considered a mindless waste of people’s time, and at worst something that causes antisocial and other problematic behaviour.
However, if you speak to Dr Daniel Johnson, Head of the Games Research and Interaction Design Lab at Queensland University of Technology, he will tell you a different story.
Dr Dan’s research shows us that commercial games can be used for good. They can actually help build resilience, manage stress and anger, promote positive thinking and create communities of support that enhance meaningful relationships.
In Australia approximately seven out of ten Australians now play video games, while 93% of households have a device for playing games, which increases to 98% if you have child living in your home.
‘Games can actually help build resilience, manage stress and anger, promote positive thinking and create communities of support that enhance meaningful relationships.’
Anecdotally we hear from AFL Players that gaming can be a great way to de-stress and connect with friends, family and other gamers in a safe and fun way, and to feel challenged and happy.
It appears that gaming not only has positive individual health and wellbeing benefits, there are also broader social and community benefits. In particular, there is a stream of games created by the not-for-profit sector – games for change – that promote civic engagement and allow people to take action on social issues that concern them such as the environment, famine, poverty, homophobia and violence against women.
There is a caveat – not all games are equal – some games may delve into and promote the darker side of human behavior.
Also, like eating, exercise, and sleep – there is a sweet spot where you get the greatest benefit, so if you spend an excessive number of hours gaming you may be doing more harm than good (the average gamer spends about 11 hours playing per week).
So if you love playing games then we say “Game On” – it seems it may be good for your wellbeing, your relationships and for society.
Let us know what online games you love to play? Tweet or FB using @aflplayers #gamechanger
Dr Jo Mitchell is the AFL Players’ Association Wellbeing Services Manager and is a co-founder of The Mind Room.