Time to level up: De-stressing through gaming
Video games are a multibillion-dollar business and are constantly growing with the ever-growing popularity of live-streaming platforms such as Twitch and Discord. So, it’s no surprise that there would be a day dedicated to this illustrious hobby. September 12th marks National Video Games Day, which is best celebrated by playing your favorite video game to de-stress or even watching your favorite Twitch streamer dominate at Fortnite. De-stressing through gaming is a common way for people to cope with everyday stressors, especially as a distraction.
Stress is a word that is synonymous with college courses, work/life balance, and especially with the ever-changing world we are all living in. Specifically, stress is defined as “the psychological perception of pressure and the body’s response to it”. While some stress is necessary, today we are experiencing an uptick in stress and anxiety among people that actually shows that many challenges tend to hijack the stress response, which was meant to only solve more short-term, life-threatening problems. It would be safe to surmise that to de-stress is to alleviate some of that stress through various coping techniques.
According to Psychology Today, “de-stressing is as important for our health as brushing our teeth and exercising.” Some natural way to de-stress includes exercise, meditation, and journaling. However, today many tend to use media to aid with stress. Whether it’s watching videos on YouTube, listening to a podcast, or simply playing a video game, media consumption has been a go-to for many college students to de-stress. In fact, according to a story published on USA Today, a study found that video games were a source of stress relief for 54% of players and two-thirds of parents believing video games made the transition to remote learning easier for their children.
The relationship between gaming and stress/anxiety is very unique and complex. Interestingly, past research has shown that there is a strong connection between violent video games and increased levels of stress and elevated blood pressure. In fact, a 2019 study tested this by having some participants play Mortal Kombat and others play Tetris. Their physiological and emotional responses were measured, and the results showed an increase in blood pressure, a decreased heart rate variability, and some signs of physical stress. However, there were more reports of higher positive emotion ratings, which seems to point to the idea that gaming can be a sense of stress-relief and provide a sense of escape or distraction.
"Video games foster the mindset that allows creativity to Grow. " - Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari, Inc
Relaxation is an important aspect of unwinding, especially after a long day of hard work, whether it be class or employment. There are a number of video games to consider when wanting to relax, including the ever-popular Animal Crossing, The Sims, and Unravel. Animal Crossing is a social-simulation game, in which the player controls a human living amongst anthropomorphic (having human characteristics) animals. This game became extremely popular since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, given its inherently social nature. The Sims is a life simulation game series that consists of players creating their own characters and playing through their lives. The newest entry in the series, The Sims 4, has become extremely popular and has spawned numerous YouTube videos, including playthroughs (commonly referred to as Let's Plays) and experimental gameplay challenges. My sister and I tend to play Unravel together whenever I visit her, which is a great way to relax with friends and family.
So, the next time you feel stressed out or wanting a distraction, maybe try turning on your Xbox, PlayStation, computer, or even just play a quick mobile game. A game I tend to turn to when I’m feeling stressed is State of Decay 2, which is an online zombie apocalypse game (available on Xbox and Windows). If you’re looking for something milder and calmer, a good one to try that has grown in immense popularity since the start of the pandemic is Animal Crossing (available on Nintendo Switch). Another great option that I would recommend for a great overall experience is a video game series called Life is Strange (available on most gaming platforms). This story-based series not only helps with stress and anxiety, but it also has a great theme and message to share over the course of each game.
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