For the longest period of its history, video games were associated with a bad reputation due to the growing number of reports linking them to poor mental health.
Surely, the expert opinion was that any time spent playing these games would only encourage kids to turn their hand to criminal activity, depression, and poor health. But then there was always the possibility that some kid might actually learn something from the experience.
As time passed, I became less worried about the potential negative effects of playing video games.
Indeed, you only have to take a glance at the runaway success of the Wii to see how the video game industry could be used for good.
Not that jumping around or running around is the only thing that playing video games can help us achieve. In 2012, a New Zealand research team reported encouraging results from a trial where they treated 44 percent of their teenage test group for severe clinical depressive disorder using a game known as SPARX.
There are many examples of how video game technology can be used to help people who suffer from various mental illnesses.
These Are the 9 Games That Can Improve Mental Health
1. Super Mario
We’ll start by talking about Mario, the famous Italian plumber who set out to save the princess from Bowser. You may be unfamiliar with him, but chances are you know his name.
A study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that playing Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a week improved cognitive abilities in children aged between 8 and 12 years old.
The results were intriguing. Those in the “Play Mario” group showed a notable increase of grey matter in the part of the brain responsible for things like memory formation, planning and spatial navigation.
“This study demonstrates the direct cause-and-effect relationship between playing video game and an increased volume of the human brains,” says the principal investigator of the study.
She believes that video game players may benefit from using these types of activities as a form of treatment for people suffering from conditions involving shrinking or altered volumes of their brains.
2. Personal Zen
You’re sure to get something out of this article. This one’s a fun little application called Personal Zen for mobile phones and tablets. It challenges you to focus on positivity throughout its various levels of gameplay.
3. Positive Activity Jackpot
There’s evidence that suggests a positive correlation between the release of dopamine in the brains of gamblers when they gamble and the release of endorphins. However, you can always choose from several different virtual casinos to enjoy some online casino gaming.
Positive Activity Jackpot originally aimed to provide support for military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but has proven useful for everyone dealing with clinical levels of anxiety and/or depressive symptoms.
Download the game, and your Android phone will use augmented realty to help you figure out where to go next. If you’re not sure which activity to choose, pull the jackpot lever to make the choice for you.
There’s plenty of evidence showing that solving puzzles can improve our ability to concentrate and feel focused.
If you ask me (and if you haven’t yet), puzzle/strategy/match-3 type of videogames don’t get any better then the classic Tetris, where you play a falling block and arrange them so they fall into place to clear lines. Tetris can be enjoyed for free online, but there are also mobile apps, laptop and console versions available.
5. Project Evo
Before it was even released, Evo was already earning praise from both tech and mental health communities as the first prescription strength treatment for mental illnesses.
Developed by a team made up of cognitive neuroscientists and software developers, the game helps improve neural functioning and cognitive symptoms through a simple app-based video game. There’s even the chance to track progress so that users can enjoy seeing the benefits of their gaming in real-time.
Designed to help users deal with stress and overcome negative thoughts, this charming little app combines games, puzzles, and quizzes with tips, techniques and even a gratitude journal to promote a positive outlook on life.
7. Wii Fit
It’s well worth mentioning the Wii’s successful promotion of positive physical fitness at the start of the piece, but it’s well worthwhile highlighting the relationship between physical activity, the release of endorphin in the brain, and the improvement of one’s mood once again.
With a console like the Wii, people who might not otherwise consider exercising can now get into shape without leaving their homes, making it an ideal tool for anyone suffering from depression.
The ReliefLink app has been awarded prizes for its ability to prevent suicide, but even if your mental well-being hasn’t reached that extreme, the combination between daily tracking and helpful tools can help you transform improving your mood into a fun game, complete with the satisfaction that comes from taking an active role in your own mental wellness.
If you’ve watched the TED talks by Jane McGonigal, you may have noticed that she discussed creating a video gaming experience to improve her own health. Instead of telling us everything, we’ll just ask Jane herself for a quick explanation. Watch the video below to learn more!