Video games are everywhere, period. Consumers can choose to play on platforms like our mobile devices, game consoles like the Playstation and xBox series, or custom-built personal computers (PCs); and for all of those ways to play there's also many different genres of games, such as strategy, sandbox, massive-multiplayer-online (MMO), and many more... the sky is the limit for the variety of games to choose from. While these games are fun to play, I recall that there's been a lot of recent discussion about video games causing negative effects such as aggression in politics and organizations promoting healthy habits. Instead of arguing for or against this viewpoint on video games, I wanted to share some tips that will help you use video games in a healthy manner, and make sure that you know how to use video games as a stress reliever than a stress agitator.

What Causes Negative Stress Reactions to Video Games?

This is a hard question to answer because it seems like there's evidence on both sides of the argument. What I can share is my own personal view on this subject.

As a gamer myself, I find myself becoming stressed out and unhappy when I set unreasonable expectations on myself and cannot achieve them in the time span I've limited myself to. Whether that is in the form of failing to win at a solitaire game or not reaching the high score I want to reach in a first-person-action game, it can get frustrating when our own set goals are not reached. Or, as I've seen in myself and friends, when you fail to beat someone else in a multi-player game, it can be upsetting to lose. No one likes to lose, right? So when someone loses over and over and feels like they're unable to win, it's understandable that their mental state will begin to deteriorate.

Personally, I think this is the biggest culprit when it comes to negative reactions being associated with video games. They're entirely designed around winning and beating other people, but when losing becomes commonplace, it can get frustrating and depressing to never be able to achieve victory. Additionally, too much gaming can lead to many effects such as obesity, addiction, and injuries! So how can we make sure we encounter as few of these negative emotions as possible, or help mitigate them when they appear?

Establishing Healthy Gaming Habits

There's many different ways that you can play games in a healthy way. Through my research I've found some of the most important ones:

  1. Setting Time Limits - game for shorter periods of time instead of binge-playing to enjoy the time and not get sidetracked from more important things.
  2. Eating Healthy - remember that snacking on junk foods can be fun, but when done in excess, will lead to health concerns over time.
  3. Exercise - more often than not you'll be sitting down while gaming; exercising before or after will keep your body healthy and mind healthy too!
  4. Taking Breaks - when the games become more agitating than fun, don't force yourself to keep playing! Switch things up or come back to the game(s) another time when you're ready to play with the right mental attitude.
  5. Reframing Gaming - focusing on the fun that the games provide is key to enjoying them. If you're having a bad time, don't force yourself to keep playing.

All of these are fairly basic suggestions for staying healthy when gaming, and for many other activities too, but they're vital to ensuring we stay healthy and sane while gaming. Letting ourselves become addicted to games will lead to negative health consequences that will be harder to correct later on, and when we don't use games in a healthy manner, they can lead to further negative mental states.

Positive Socialization in Games

Something else too that I think should be said is that, when playing multiplayer games, it's important to remember you're gaming with a fellow human. Much in the same way that we yell at the driver who swerves around us on the highway, it's easy to let yourself learn unhealthy habits in games, such as yelling at your monitor or using physical means to alleviate stress like slamming your fist on your desk. I'll admit that I've done both in the past, but I learned that to correct the behavior, I need to step back and remember that I'm playing with other people. The game is confined to the computer under my desk, and the extent of the game in our reality only reaches to the four corners of the monitor on top of the desk. Beyond my desk, these games have no root in reality, except when I let them affect my attitude away from my desk.

Instead, what I learned to do is try and find groups of gamers that help make the games fun to play. I discovered groups on a platform called Discord which is built for gaming communities, but you can also find groups on popular social media websites like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram too. Or, try and get your friends and family interested in the games you play too! Maybe you'll be able to discuss the game with someone you personally know, making the game have a more positive association the next time you play.

It's all about framing your outlook on games in a positive way. Especially during the time of the pandemic - remember to stay healthy and positive as much as you can so that you don't feel too stressed out by the current time period. Games can help you destress and add joy to your day, but only if you know how to do it right. Don't fall into the same traps that I did when I let myself be consumed by games; they can be incredibly fun, but only when done in moderation and in a positive way.