Videogames’ mental-health benefits reseearched

The Washington Post leads its article with the story about a longtime depression patient who plays videogames for relief when she can’t sleep. She liked the game Bejeweled so much that she called its makers, PopCap Games. They were surprised about the benefits she cited and decided to fund some research, being done at the psychophysiology lab and biofeedback clinic at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., some of which has been published in the Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine. Researchers are looking into “the idea that depression and other disorders – as well as everyday stress and worry – involve systematic patterns of thought and self-doubt, and that games can distract people and put them in a different mental zone. You don’t have to play with a computer or an Xbox 360 to notice the effect: Anyone who has used a crossword puzzle or Sudoku game to decompress after a difficult day recognizes the idea.” They’re looking at benefits not only for depression sufferers but also people in high-stress (and sustained stress) occupations such as soldiers, correctional officers, and hospital staff – people always on the alert who find it difficult to “switch off.” [See also “The power of play” and “Play, Part 2.”]

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