When trying to get a varied picture of the possible effect on mental health from on-line and off-line gaming, I do not receive much help.
As I google (which one often does to have a first look) I use the phrase World of War craft AND Mental Health. In summary, approximate 70% of the articles reflect either forums of concerned parents or articles such as “Wow, could it kill our teenagers?”
Upon looking at more scientific search engines I find the same type of results. Majority of the articles concern anxiety and depression as well as internet-addiction. Nothing at all mentioning mental health benefits, only some mentioning cognitive and motor-skill improvement. For verification do the same search with the key words written above on PubMed or Google.
Studies presented use very unconventional methods at reaching such conclusions. If ones child spends 14h/day on the net, It is more likely that that child had difficulties he wants to escape in real life. That was concluded already in the 1980’s in the ever so popular “arcade era”. Studies of children spending more time than the average peer in arcades, showed that they were more often bullied or had psychosocial problems in the family, gaming was their escape. For many it was an alternative, they could do like their friends and use alcohol or drugs or emerge to an alternative virtual reality. (Turkle, 1987).
I have had the same experience lately. When I have been able to use a game as projection of my own problems, realising many things about myself emotionally that I never would have figured out without the game character who I quickly came to identify my self with. Her wisdom and journey led me to my own journey and in the end, I felt much better. Working through my own issues. Another unpublished study will confirm this, just hold on,
I am surprised of how one sided and negative the literature today is, and the lack of realisation of the potential that gaming, specially on-line gaming can have.
I do not deny the problematic of the addiction of on-line gaming, but addiction exists in every aspect of our reality. Addictions are never good, exercise, food, alcohol, sex, gambling, gaming…..anything that gets over the top is bad. But if one looks at society at large, gaming is the least of our problems. In fact, for some individuals it was a distraction from more harmful things such as drugs or alcohol (unpublished, ref later)
So why does not my positive experience count, why is there no positive research in this area. Every time the topic is brought up, shifty statistics are thrown towards people like me, and we can’t argue….there are no statistics that back us up, since nobody has collected them….yet!
Because it is not popular to say that a controversial tool can be double edged and prove that it can be of good. Then we have to go back and find something else to divide to right and wrong so that we can truly say “It’s those damn game’s fault my teenager is so depressed and isolated” and not wonder if the fact that he sees the adults IRL feel miserable. He wants to escape that reality. We have to reduce things to simplicity, we just can’t seem to see more complex relations when it comes to controversial things.
On-line gaming addiction does not appear because the World of Warcraft
is so amazing, it appears because the World We Live In is not the least appealing, perhaps even miserable I might say.
Turkle, S (1987) Ditt andra jag-Datorn och människans psyke. Prisma