Are violent video games good for mental health?

Role-playing games and other strategy games can help strengthen problem-solving skills. There is little research that says that violent video games are harmful to mental health. Almost any game that encourages decision-making and critical thinking is beneficial to mental health. Unlike the association between playing violent video games and aggressiveness, the association between playing violent video games and depression has not been well studied.

Taken together, these studies suggest that it is more important to pay attention to predispositions to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, than to exposure to video games, whether violent or not. The link between violent video game content and depression is plausible in light of research that indicates that the exposure of children and adolescents to real-life violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is associated with poor mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In forensic cases, especially when the patient's behavior was very violent or sexual in nature, victims and their families may maintain an interest in the patient after hospitalization. While video games are not necessarily an essential part of such an environment, they should be given due attention.

There is also an insinuation that any potential effect of violent video games on aggressive behavior would tend to manifest when use is prolonged, although research did not show that the game itself necessarily causes aggressive behavior. The justification for limiting a patient's access to certain video games must be clearly documented in the medical record. For example, Di Bona and Boyle46 surveyed a group of 19 people with psychiatric disorders and found that the computer or video games were the second most common leisure activity, and that respondents identified video games as a way to relax and pass the time. The authors note that video games are already popular among people aged 18 to 54, who also tend to face high rates of mental health problems.

A new article suggests that video games could be the key to providing affordable, stigma-free mental health treatment around the world. If financially feasible, patients in forensic hospitals should have access to video games as a normalizing and socially acceptable leisure activity.

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