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Much has been written about video games, and quite a lot of it is negative. We have feared that video games are making our children less social and more violent, and making us all more stressed. There's been significant research on the topic, and some good news has come out of it: Video games can actually be good for our stress levels! 

Research on Video Games and Stress

Most gamers report that playing video games—even violent games—is a way to relieve stress and enjoy playing with friend

However, much of the research conducted on video games comes with the presumption that games are stressful or even psychologically harmful. While this isn’t the whole story, there is some evidence to support this assumption.

How Video Games Create Stress

Some studies show that a stressful in game situation leads players to experience a stress reaction in real life. Other studies have found that when people play violent games, they are more likely to act aggressively in different types of scenarios. For instance, players who played violent games for 20 minutes were more likely to blast a loud noise at another subject when given the chance, which was considered an indication of aggression.

Another study found that teens who played violent games experienced minimal increases in feelings of aggression, though the increases were barely detectable; teen girls experienced a slight increase in stress.

How We Can Use Video Games for Better Stress Relief

Video games can help us with a safe and fun way for developing our emotional awareness and coping skills. One study from the Behavioral Science Institute in The Netherlands studied proficient gamers who were playing Starcraft 2 to determine if their in-game coping mechanisms were related to their overall stress levels. What they found was that several players who became upset during gameplay found useful coping strategies to handle their negative emotions.

The most useful strategies were those that either sought a resolution to the negative feelings (either by problem-solving or by using personal coping strategies) or ones that sound out social support from other players. One key difference between those who coped well, and those who were less effective copers was the ability to monitor their own feelings and internal states—what is known as introceptive awareness—and then take steps to keep a healthy balance, either by making beneficial decisions to change their situation for the better, or by looking for help. In fact, most games reward players for being able to manage their emotions and work toward solutions in the face of stress.

 

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