Gaming and the Pandemic
As individuals age and social norms begin to dictate how individuals should experience the world around them, the idea of playing video games, using imagination, and experiencing events that are deemed “childlike” are seen by adults as inappropriate and immature. However, it has become overwhelmingly clear since the start of the pandemic that play was something everyone needs regardless of age or gender.
Prior to the pandemic, we saw the push to stigmatize video gamers and remove young gamers from their online communities because many did not see value in the online friendships or communities these gamers were building. Fast forward to the pandemic and international lockdowns and the push to stigmatize gaming shifting and we found that those online communities were helping gamers of all ages stay connected to the outside world when everyone was forced to be inside.
Gaming shifted drastically. Games like Dungeons and Dragons and Vampire the Masquerade, that were once played in-person around tables, where now founding space on the internet in virtual spaces like Roll20, Foundry, and other virtual tabletop simulations. These communities continued to thrive and even grow. Lovers of these games who were unable to find a table in person due to personal reasons were thriving in online communities that accepted them for who they were and where they were. This shift forced large companies like Wizards of the Coast to modify their Friday Night Magic into the online space with Arena.
Console games also saw a large tick in sales, community driven online events, and a surge in growth within age groups that had not been part of the regular communities. Gamers who were in lockdown were able to continue to build on the in game skills while socializing with other console gamers who were also experiencing the effects of lockdown.
Gaming has long been seen as the enemy of families with gamers in them. So much so that it has been pushed that gaming has negative side effects on those who engage with them and that mental health is suffering due to the lack of in person interactions. While many will continue to believe this in order to push a narrative that is build in stigma and lack of evidence based understanding, there was a study released earlier this summer from Oxford that was able to prove that claim wrong. The study shows that 40,000 gamers were studied and the data overwhelming provided a narrative that claims the exact opposite and provides evidence based research showing that those 40,000 participants’ mental health was in fact helped by the gaming communities the gamers belonged to and that having those communities helped participants in some of the hardest moments in their lives.
As we continue to look at tabletop gaming and console gaming across the lifespan, we have to look at the mental wellness gaming is providing to the gamers. Humans are created to be social creatures and with the invention of the video game and the internet, our social interactions are evolving and any of them are found in the virtual space. Since the pandemic, the mental health crisis has grown exponentially and the need to understand the gamer and their mental well-being has becoming a beacon for game developers world-wide and with the constant conversations from geek centric therapists, gaming in therapy has become an integral part of therapeutic sessions across the globe.
As we have watched this unfold over the past 5 years, the team at Geek Therapeutics and its partners have worked tirelessly to bring gaming education to clinicians who are unaware of the positive impacts gaming can have on their client populations. Over the spring we announced a new certification program for clinicians and mental health advocates called The Problematic Gaming Specialist. The program was created with industry professionals with decades of work in video game therapy, broad abdication specialties, and compassionate treatment planning to provide evidence based education on the topic of problematic gaming. The program has become the go to course for clinicians unfamiliar with gaming to learn best practices in treating gamers and guiding their families towards understanding the impacts that gaming can have on the mental wellbeing of their loved one and the gaming community as a whole.
If you or someone you know would like more information on the problematic gaming program, please follow the link to our website for program requirements and enrollment opportunities.