11

votes

Video Games and Mental Health

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created January 23, 2011 at 9:44 PM

We know video games keep one in their seat and not exercising. Recent studies have shown everything from benefits to cognitive reasoning to influencing negative behavior. Has anyone has the opportunity to examine some of these studies? What is the truth behind them? Did they follow proper scientific principals? Were the results correlations or causations? These are things that are not included in most articles in the press.

Another question is, is the relationship related to the games, or the TV/computer? I am a PC tech and spend a lot of time in front of the screen, though not gaming.

D8644ecc819aa7fb98ed93eece4befa2

(281)

on April 13, 2013
at 08:22 PM

I also believe that images and experiences are food for your mental wellbeing, just as food is food for the body. Feeding your brains large quantities of experiences that can be considered disgusting or scary (violence, certain porn) will cause problems in your mental state. It's perfectly normal to experience disgust and enjoyement, or scare and entertainment at the same time - but I think it's better to be aware at both and search for things that eliminate negative brainfood and endorse positive experience.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 25, 2011
at 11:57 PM

I'm betting on the next mutation being an additional moisturising mucosal film over the eyes, allowing us to game long into the night without crispy eyes the next day. ;)

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:59 PM

We tend to limit our kids' video gaming to weekends and rewards for good behavior. When I was a kid my parents never bought me the game consoles, but we had an Apple II+. I would stay up all night playing the few games we had for it, but I spent most of the mornings outside. I have many friends who had every game console and played most of the day who turned out fine. I frequently play multiplayer game with the kids and help them solve puzzles that may be a little over their heads. Definitely a great way to bond, but i would rather go throw a ball around.

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:58 PM

Maybe the evolutionary trend is going to be adapting to the technology. We will be able to game all night with no detriment, lol.

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:35 PM

My son is bipolar and ADHD. He tends to obsess over certain games, to the point that when they are taken away his pretending revolves around them. This research could give me an explanation to whether this is a result of his illness or the influence of the addictive nature of the flickering screen.

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:31 PM

@scott: I fell this belongs here because it can showcase technology's influence on our behavior, which in turn can influence our diet and general well-being. Paleo is about the lifestyle and mindset, not just the diet. If sitting in front of a TV screen all day makes one lazy, tired and fat it shows that we need to change our stance on how technology influences our lives.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 24, 2011
at 06:12 PM

I agree! My daughter loves her Nintendo DS, but she also plays softball, golf and is a cheerleader. When she gets home from school she ALWAYS prefers to play with her friends outside, but if the weather is bad or no one is available, she likes to play with her game system or online games. She is much more advanced on the computer than most of her friends, even the older ones, because she has access to her own computer.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 24, 2011
at 04:55 PM

This is exactly how I feel regarding video games. I love me some Fifa and Madden! I'm compltely normal.. just ask me ;)

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 24, 2011
at 12:50 AM

I developed wicked thumb power from a childhood with a Gameboy!

5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on January 24, 2011
at 12:14 AM

@eakthekat: maybe if you added to your question the line "Are video games paleo?" nobody would doubt its relevance to this site... :)

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 23, 2011
at 11:44 PM

Video games could land you a job someday. Check out this old "Far Side" cartoon by Gary Larson: http://davidgaines.com/nucleus/itsjobvious.php?itemid=285 .

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 23, 2011
at 11:09 PM

Personally, I feel that a holistic Paleo approach should go further than nutrition and exercise; it should also examine the differences between our evolutionary and current environments. This can cover many aspects often not generally thought to be related to a healthy lifestyle e.g. exposure to artificial and natural light, the introduction of close-range activity such as reading e.t.c. I feel that gaming, which has profound social, psychological and physical (i.e. dexterity, hand-eye co-ordination) implications, deserves to come under scrutiny from a Paleo perspective.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on January 23, 2011
at 10:53 PM

I'm not clear on why this belongs here.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 23, 2011
at 10:38 PM

A great, original question which I hope gets the intelligent answer it deserves. A minor caveat though: how to define gaming? The physical aspect of hand held consoles/Wiis (i.e. very dexterous/physically involved) vs static PC? Puzzle games vs adventure games? Violent vs non-violent games. The addictive/compulsive aspects of games with rewards systems/games that encourage "grinding"? The social aspects of single player vs co-operative multiplayer vs competitive multiplayer? The list goes on...

  • A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

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8 Answers

6
76f3ead3aa977d876bcf3331d35a36e9

(4620)

on January 24, 2011
at 04:46 PM

I was literally OBSESSED with video games growing up. I played them constantly; every genre, every system. I would take my gameboy (which looks like a brick compared to the ones they have nowadays) pretty much everywhere I went. All of this was against my parents' preference, of course.

Anyway, some observations that are worth mentioning that are most likely not related to my video game childhood, but just maybe they are.

  • I have no negative behaviour or violent tendencies (quite the opposite actually), despite the gruesome games I played growing up (Mortal Kombat or Doom anyone?)

  • I have quite excellent eye-hand coordination.

  • I developed myopia (nearsightedness) when I was about 16.

My two cents are that video games are not the destructive demons some people claim them to be. As long as the child leads an active life, doesn't spend all day sitting inches from a screen, and is nourished by the parents with positivity and proper teaching of the negative implications of violence, then including video games as a leisure activity is great. In fact, multiplayer games are a great way to bond. To bring this all back to the world of paleo, I'm sure Grok and his pals were all about the friendly competitiveness. Although, they probably had competitions of who could kill the most mammoths..

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 24, 2011
at 04:55 PM

This is exactly how I feel regarding video games. I love me some Fifa and Madden! I'm compltely normal.. just ask me ;)

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 24, 2011
at 06:12 PM

I agree! My daughter loves her Nintendo DS, but she also plays softball, golf and is a cheerleader. When she gets home from school she ALWAYS prefers to play with her friends outside, but if the weather is bad or no one is available, she likes to play with her game system or online games. She is much more advanced on the computer than most of her friends, even the older ones, because she has access to her own computer.

2
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 23, 2011
at 10:55 PM

I think the negative side effects studies I have seen have been in only two areas. One is in the area of violent videogames correlated with more violent behavior. Most of these were correlational and not causational but i think I saw a few that seemed to indicate kids would have more violent thoughts and reaction following playing a violent game vs playing a nonviolent game.

The other neg I have seen is studies looking at kids who play for many hours per day. Again, most were correlational, ie kids who play a lot were antisocial, fatter, sicker, etc. But it's hard to say if the games were the cause or just a side effect of personality. If you took away the games, those same kids might turn to TV instead.

Certainly, I think it's wise to keep the game playing to moderate levels. I have occasionally met kids that were literally psychologically addicted to their gameboy and would be profoundly upset the entire time if someone neglected to pack the gamebody for the camping trip or somesuch. Such is obviously not healthy.

However, on the flip side, I've seen a number of good looking studies that show improved eye hand coordination from game playing, so it's not all bad. These kinds of advantages might help those going into specific careers like sports, martial arts, or the military. Plus these days, gaming is also an impetus for kids to become increasingly computer savvy.

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:59 PM

We tend to limit our kids' video gaming to weekends and rewards for good behavior. When I was a kid my parents never bought me the game consoles, but we had an Apple II+. I would stay up all night playing the few games we had for it, but I spent most of the mornings outside. I have many friends who had every game console and played most of the day who turned out fine. I frequently play multiplayer game with the kids and help them solve puzzles that may be a little over their heads. Definitely a great way to bond, but i would rather go throw a ball around.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 24, 2011
at 12:50 AM

I developed wicked thumb power from a childhood with a Gameboy!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 23, 2011
at 11:44 PM

Video games could land you a job someday. Check out this old "Far Side" cartoon by Gary Larson: http://davidgaines.com/nucleus/itsjobvious.php?itemid=285 .

1
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on May 24, 2011
at 10:45 AM

I grew up playing video games probably way too much, and still play them occasionally (as an adult I like strategy games). There were probably aspects of childhood development that I missed out on due to way too many hours plugged into utterly pointless video games, and I try to make sure my kids don't fall into the same hole. One disturbing thing about then is that you can spend hours upon hours on them... there were times when I'd be immersed in a game and be surprised to see the sun come up. There's no way that can be good for you, physically, mentally or emotionally.

That said, I think video games can be fun and, if not educational, then they can broaden your horizons in ways that other things can't. We got a Wii for our kids for their birthdays, and those games require you to move around, practice somewhat realistic hand-eye coordination, and they are very social. It is also hard to play them for a long time as you get physically tired. My son literally breaks a sweat with the boxing and tennis games, and my daughter works herself into a froth with the dance one.

On the other hand, I tried one of the Call of Duty games, and even as someone who grew up during the slasher movie genre (think Halloween and Freddy Kruger), maybe I'm getting old but I found the game way too graphic and intense. Just playing the game gets you wired on adrenaline, and it glamorizes war and death in a way that I don't think is good for anyone. They are very immersive, which is a technical feat, but I don't think anyone should want to be immersed in a war zone.

More than gaming, these days what annoys and sometimes amuses me is people plugged into their smart phones. Go into a Starbucks or a party with high school or teenage kids and everyone is staring at itty bitty screens and are always mentally somewhere else, maybe 3 or 4 places at once. Sometimes I think I should go back in time 100 years...

1
Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 24, 2011
at 04:09 PM

Unfortunately I lack the science background to properly dissect the rigour/worth of gaming studies. However, studies about obesity/social behaviours/propensity to violence/depression in gamers tend to be observational. Don't forget that as a self-selecting sample, young men between 16-24 tend to be demographically over-represented in these studies. Another flaw in our perception of gaming as advantageous/harmful is that studies are often carried out/given undue media prominence by interested parties e.g. game companies on the one hand, vs family pressure groups on the other.

From a Paleo perspective, the greatest problems with gaming are also those associated with just sitting at a screen i.e. it is an indoor, sedentary leisure activity (which is in itself a risk factor for depression/poor mental health), that tends to displace more healthful pursuits. Sunlight, fresh air and exercise are all important to our mental and physical health. People will also often let game-playing cut into their sleep time.

Another problem from a Paleo perspective is the artifical light emitted from TV/computer screens, which disrupts sleep cycles if you're exposed to it later in the day. If you're a PC gamer/user, you can install f.lux ( http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/ ). This is a handy piece of freeware which creates a natural sunset by gradually filtering the blue light from the screen. Also, when sitting at the computer, it is helpful to make sure that it is the right height/keyboard is at the right distance e.t.c so that your posture is good.

Personally, I distrust the current trend in gaming which markets games as self-improving rather than merely fun, as I think that this is a deceptive practice. To my mind the only two words in the English language on a par with "vitamin water" are "wii fit". Equally, there's little evidence for the over-hyping of "brain training" games, which claim to improve memory/cognitive ability/brain "age" e.t.c. Any improvements observed in regular users seem to come from repeatedly practicing very specific tasks, which have no real world applications.

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100420/full/4641111a.html

Interestingly, any benefits from gaming seem to be entirely unintentional features of regular games. For example, playing action games apparently hones people's ability to make good snap decisions under pressure. And Stephen-Aegis wasn't far off; people under 25 have actually developed stronger and more flexible thumbs due to gaming, texting e.t.c, which they now employ for tasks traditionally associated with the index finger. Is a new evolutionary pathway opening up?

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:58 PM

Maybe the evolutionary trend is going to be adapting to the technology. We will be able to game all night with no detriment, lol.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 25, 2011
at 11:57 PM

I'm betting on the next mutation being an additional moisturising mucosal film over the eyes, allowing us to game long into the night without crispy eyes the next day. ;)

0
D8644ecc819aa7fb98ed93eece4befa2

(281)

on April 13, 2013
at 02:56 PM

This is not an answer to your question about research. But I do want to give you an answer about video games and mental health. Because of the experience it provides, I consider it to be rather damaging. - You envoke a certain reaction in yourself by seeing things happen on a computer screen. - The things you see are not real, but your brain can't tell the difference. - By pressing on a few buttons, you get the feeling you have influence on what you see. - This may feel social, but it really isn´t, as a program is not a person. - You could be doing anything else....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs

D8644ecc819aa7fb98ed93eece4befa2

(281)

on April 13, 2013
at 08:22 PM

I also believe that images and experiences are food for your mental wellbeing, just as food is food for the body. Feeding your brains large quantities of experiences that can be considered disgusting or scary (violence, certain porn) will cause problems in your mental state. It's perfectly normal to experience disgust and enjoyement, or scare and entertainment at the same time - but I think it's better to be aware at both and search for things that eliminate negative brainfood and endorse positive experience.

0
535fafe8afe6923870905c707c4f4454

on May 24, 2011
at 08:42 AM

As a 21 year old unemployed student who still lives with his parents, I have made the choice to quit gaming. (I would use to play around 1 hr a day to procrastinate or fight boredom)

With my aforementioned status, I have a lot of time on my hands - which I should be spending studying, socialising and living life well. It occurred to me recently that computer games were proving to be just too seductive, offering an easily accessible relatively brain-dead relief from boredom/work/effort of socialising.

Combine this with the concept that games are quite addictive (sensory overload, fantasy world, reward systems - seratonin/dopamine release?) and I think its pretty clear that computer games aren't healthy on any sort of accessible regular basis - if even just by the mechanism of dulling the value of real life activities. I believe this results in some sort of chemical addiction, similar to sugar or some habit like picking nails -- thinking of throwing away all the demands of society and playing a 'good' game for hours on end gives me that 'warm feeling'. I guess it depends if you are susceptible to these sort of addictions like I am.

I went cold turkey - which was actually pretty easy compared to going cold turkey on grains/legumes!

0
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on January 24, 2011
at 04:53 PM

It seems to me that playing video games is not much better nor worse than spending countless hours in front of a computer, or even a tv screen. I mean the problem seems to be TOO MUCH SEDENTARISM-lack of exercise, outdoor movement, etc, and this takes different shapes for different people. Again I do not think there is a problem with video games (or for that matter tvś or computers) but if you do too much of them you may end up isolated, overweight and perhaps even depressed!

-1
E76dc81c4df87e5145cc9bbccbe621f1

on April 13, 2013
at 12:30 PM

Hi there, Video games are definitely linked with the mental health of the person. Besides some negative effects there are numerous advantages are there which I would like to mention. These are- These games enhance the strategy planning skill, focusing ability and speed of a player. Also players??? hand-eye coordination becomes better by playing these games. Plenty of logic games like word puzzle and hidden object games online help to improve memory skills. I am too a fan of these games and played several of them at portals like http://www.bgames.com and others.

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