For decades there has been a prevailing stereotype about gamers that they are recluses with a lack of social skills. However, video games today are often designed to be interactive: you can play with people in your home, with friends you know, or with strangers around the world. Many games have a chat component that you can use to have a conversation.
Perhaps it is time to update our mental images about gamers and realize that video games can work the exact opposite of what we were warned about: they can help defeat loneliness.
Behavioral psychologist Geert Verheijen in the Netherlands was particularly interested in studying games as he is a gambler himself. He has done previous research on aggression and gaming-related knowledge. This time, for three years, he examined the gambling behavior of around 600 pupils in the seventh to tenth grades – divided roughly equally by gender – using questionnaires and a personal observational study. He did not examine patients, but only tried to find out about the “average daily gaming behavior of adolescents,” he said in an interview with Medical Daily.
What he discovered was this: children who play alone for a long time feel more lonely, but when they play interactively with friends, the opposite is true. This can be welcome news for parents, especially during a pandemic when social interactions are harder to come by.
Long Island, NY mother Andrea Basile Cavese told Medical Daily she was concerned when her son didn’t have a great experience making friends in elementary school. He had a couple of friends at school, but they didn’t hang out outside of school. But he found “his people” when he started playing Roblox online. Over the years the same kids have moved on to other games, and now they’re building their own games. Andrea’s son is now 14 years old and he is the animator of the group’s creations.
“I was always afraid that he would spend too much time on the computer, but now I see a possible future for him,” she said.
She is glad that not only did he find a passion, but also a group of friends from all over the country who have forged a long-term relationship and made each other social.
Alexander Kriss, PhD, a psychotherapist in New York, isn’t surprised to hear this. The author of The Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Video Games and the Power of Game told Medical Daily that gaming has always been unfairly condemned, especially after violent gaming became a convenient scapegoat for the Columbine High School shooting 1999 to explain. (Why would boys get violent? It must be the video games!) In reality, Dr. Kriss, there is no scientific basis for this, and he is glad that we are finally starting to defend ourselves against the negative trend.
Setting boundaries is an important part of parenting, so of course there’s a point where parents have to push back when gaming is just too much, despite the positives. But he suggested viewing game obsession as a symptom rather than a problem, and trying not to view video games as a “threat that needs to be neutralized”. Instead, think of it as a window into human psychology.
Especially now that the pandemic has changed our lives, we should probably take the game a little more relaxed. It can be the best outlet we have for hanging out with others.
“Social interaction brings new rules, barriers and fears with it. Simple daily tasks involve issues of risk and safety, ”said Dr. Kriss. “Some activities and places are just not accessible. Games can give children and adults the opportunity to get in touch with these important aspects of real life – social interaction, learning skills, achieving goals, having fun – while staying in the safety of virtual space. “
Sociability in games can offer more emotional opportunities than other forms of distant interaction, he said because “it puts players in a shared world that is separate from physical reality (and therefore separate from the pressures and fears of the pandemic era), In which cooperation and competition take place, frustration, joy and so on can be experienced without becoming overwhelming. Playing a game is not a passive hobby. It’s interactive, which means it can simulate aspects of life that may not be currently available. “
Jenna Glatzer (www.jennaglatzer.com) is the author of more than 30 books, including Celine Dion’s authorized biography. She and her daughter live in New York.