The rise of stress-free video games – Daily Sundial


The hobby of playing video games to quell the boredom felt by many during lockdown has turned into an effective way to relieve stress.

Mandatory quarantines have given people time to discover or rediscover video games. Console and game sales, gamer population and time spent playing have increased since the start of the pandemic.

As one of the few methods of social interaction in an era of regulated social distancing, video games used as an outlet to relieve stress beckoned new players and veterans alike.

A 2021 study on the relationship between personal well-being and video game use during the pandemic found a 71% increase in game time among participants. Fifty-eight percent also felt that playing video games affected their well-being, with the majority reporting a positive impact.

Casual video games built with the specific function of evoking positive emotions in gamers through a soothing experience are not really new to the mainstream market.

Thatgamecompany, a Santa Monica-based video game developer, is famous for its indie titles created with the goal of creating a relaxing experience. Flower, Journey, and Sky: Children of the Light are notable examples. These games emphasized soothing visual and audio design over gameplay mechanics, which appealed to gamers, as evidenced by Journey becoming the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy Award.

Life simulation games, like the Animal Crossing series, follow a similar formula of serene gameplay that casual audiences can enjoy. These games often forgo complicated challenges by simplifying game mechanics and objectives to avoid stressful and frustrating experiences.

The idea of ​​reducing stress for video game players has even reached big-budget game developers who have begun implementing features intended to reduce player frustration.

Japanese video game developer FromSoftware recently released Elden Ring with these thoughts in mind. Although known for creating the notoriously difficult Dark Souls series, FromSoftware wanted to focus on reducing player stress in its new open-world game.

“With the game world being so vast, it can produce real depth and breadth of enjoyment, but it can also cause unnecessary stress for some players,” Elden Ring producer Yasuhiro Kitao said at the Taipei Game Show. 2022. “The development team has been very careful to avoid this whenever possible.

A common thread in anti-stress video games is the design of the game itself. Mental health advocacy organization Take This deals with underlying conditions, like game design, that can create mental health issues for gamers.

Rachel Kowert, research director at Take This, explained that video games can be a great tool for relaxation. According to Kowert, they provide a perfectly balanced challenge that induces a heightened sense of focus called a “flow” state. This state of fluidity motivates players to keep playing and can be a pleasant form of relaxation from everyday stress, she added.

“People are looking for ways to escape the stresses of everyday life. And I say escaping in the best possible way is not an inherently negative thing,” Kowert said. “We all need an escape and some games are positioning themselves in the market for that.”

Even more competitive and often intense games that are considered stress-inducing can have a positive impact on stress. Whether one game is more effective at managing your mood than another may depend on your preferences.

Self-determination theory has more recently been developed to talk specifically about how game design contributes to a person’s well-being, according to Kowert. The theory revolves around three basic psychological needs that facilitate personal growth: autonomy, competence and belonging.

Video games can provide a sense of empowerment by allowing players to make in-game choices, a sense of competence in achieving goals, and a sense of connection through the virtual interaction of other players, explained Kuwait.

“Games are particularly effective tools for mood management because good games are developed to engage in a way that meets all of our basic psychological needs as humans,” Kowert said.

The popularization of video games for stress relief continues to grow alongside the success of the digital game market as a whole. This may partly explain why the gaming industry earned more than $180 billion in global revenue in 2021, according to Statista.

After gaining more free time during the pandemic to play video games, 75% of gamers expected to continue or increase their gaming activity, as reported by a 2021 survey conducted by Google and Newzoo. This increase can only continue the upward trend of video games as a tool for stress relief and relaxation.

“It’s important to know that the impact of games in our daily lives is more positive than negative, or at the very least neutral,” Kowert said. “While too much of anything can be detrimental, video games are a great way to unwind at the end of the day.”


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