When the average person sits down to play a game, there are thousands of options they could be enjoying. Many of them are adrenaline pumping games like Doom or Call of Duty. Maybe it is getting lost in a story based RPG like Final Fantasy or one of the Tales Of games. Others love nerve fraying horror games or competing in sports games. This got me thinking, what are the therapeutic value of video games?
Before we go any farther I think it is worth giving a disclaimer about this piece. I am not a doctor nor do I have any degrees in a medical or mental health study. None of this is medical advice and is merely my opinion.
I feel like it is worth noting that I have these in two categories, therapeutic games and therapy games. Therapeutic games are more subjective and really just games that make people feel good while playing them. This can include a retail worker playing Doom: Eternal after a long shift or the accountant who loves to play Forza to add a little excitement to their day. These games can not really be listed, so I will focus on the other type.
What is a therapy game you ask? Well, if I had to define it I would say a game that is slow paced and doesn’t force the player to act quickly and instead prefers them to play at their own pace. Some examples of this game type are Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Harvest Moon. I actually picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons which has helped me develop this idea a little bit.
Sure, there are open world games that don’t care if you screw around and do whatever you want, like Fallout and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but these games have a lot of combat and stressful parts built in and have the crushing feeling of an objective to accomplish. Animal Crossing is up front with all the things that need done, but at your own pace. It is alright to go fish for hours and worry about house expansion later.
Editor’s Note: Check out our full review of Animal Crossing!
Minecraft is much the same way. While yes. There is a survival mode, you can take the option where you can turn that off and just focus on building. For people with anxiety, these types of games can act as therapy by being a calming experience. There is no trophy hunting to do, no secret items you have to stress about missing. I have sat down and played Animal Crossing for hours knowing that I could take as much time as I need.
As a person with mild anxiety I know what it is like to get tired playing a game because it is so stressful. I hate playing games where I need to have a wiki up at all times so I don’t miss a critical item that will affect me against the boss later. I think that gamers would benefit by a few more of these types of games being made.
I think it would also be worth it to have a study done to see if these games affect people in a positive way.
I would like to see how these games continue to develop and innovate over the years. Maybe these games will continue to play a role in helping people deal with sometimes debilitating health issues. Everyone stay safe and we are almost out of the woods with the pandemic so just stay in and enjoy games a little longer.