January 2006 Archives

I've always been intrigued by gamers' stories about the connection between video games and depression. Typically, a specific game title comes to be associated in the gamer's mind with depression, or a period of intense gaming activity coincides with a bout of depression. Although the association that forms between gaming and depression can be a negative one, my sense is that the role that video games play in depression is therapeutic.

I heard a pair of stories on NPR a short time ago that seemed to confirm this belief. One was about the changes that take place in the brain during a gaming session, the other was about the use of video games as a tool for pain management. Interestingly, what seems to making gaming useful for pain management is it's interactive component, as opposed to, say, it's content. Other art forms, like film or music or fiction, may be consoling because of what they convey, but in games the key element seems to be how it is conveyed. At one point, NPR labels the "how" part "distraction," but I think it would be more accurate to call it a specific type of focus.

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