Coping up with depression with online gaming

What is the opposite of “online game”?

The most instinctive answer is probably “work”. But there is a better answer to this question, which could be the key to the development of new therapies in the field of mental disorders. The opposite of “online game” is not “work”. It is “depression”!

Online games are perfect opposite of depression. People who are clinically depressed feel they do not have the energy to deal with everyday things. They are very pessimistic, in particular regarding their skills and abilities and they do not have positive emotions.

In recent years, many scientific studies have been carried out on online gamers, including functional magnetic resonances: exams that monitor neuronal activity and brain function. The results of these studies show that when we play online games, two parts of the brain are stimulated constantly and intensely: the one associated with motivation and achievement of objectives (the one referred to as “reward system” or “gratification”) and that associated with learning and memory. Actually it makes sense, if you think about what happens when we play an online game: we are constantly striving to reach a goal, solve a puzzle, find hidden objects, reach the goal or score a goal, and this focuses our attention and creates a sense of determination and motivation. The closer we get to the goal and the potential success,

On the other hand, all online games – not just those that are explicitly educational – are instructive and make players learn something. The first level of each game is always easy, because those who play are not yet very familiar with the rules, the commands, and the context. The learning process begins immediately: the player learns the rules, tests different strategies and improves their skills. A fundamental thing happens: as you go forward in every online game, everything becomes more difficult. This requires players to learn and improve constantly. The experience of constantly improving on something is probably the most typical and rewarding feature of online games. When there’s nothing left to learn, and you’ve become so good that everything is easy, we usually stop playing.

Now things are getting interesting, especially for interested researchers like me to the links between play and depression. Those two parts of the brain, the hippocampus and the reward region, are the same two chronically underestimated parts in those who are clinically depressed. Over time they even become smaller. In other words: playing online games is literally the opposite of depression.

When the part of the reward is not stimulated, we see no potential success before us. The result is that we are pessimistic, without motivation to do anything. Furthermore, a reduction in blood flow to the hippocampus – not to mention a narrowing of its gray matter – is associated with learning difficulties and the elaboration of strategies and tools that serve to face difficulties. This makes it difficult to improve in anything, in addition to making us depressed.

Playing to improve our mood does not necessarily have to be a problem. The key is to choose a game that has a positive purpose: to develop creativity like Minecraft, learn how to solve new problems like Portal, strengthen relationships with friends and family like Words with Friends, get up and start over after failures like Call of Duty, improve its functionality under stress like League of Legends, where E-Sports betting on Demacia Cup is held every year on bookmakers such as William Hill.

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Researchers have found that using these games helps improve self-esteem and build valuable qualities that lead to problem resolution. More importantly, these games have opposite consequences to escape from reality : improve in something – anything! – it helps to be less depressed, to stay more on the piece and to be more resistant in everyday life. This is because every time you play, you realize the mental resources you use and how much better. Do not think you are fleeing from reality; on the contrary, you realize you are doing something that can be useful in reality.

It is not that then you have to decide to play different games: just decide to focus on how online games improve us. By doing so, the chances of understanding that the qualities that online games develop in us can be valuable in everyday life. The more you focus on how online games improve you, the easier it becomes to activate the part of the brain involved in the games – the hippocampus and the reward, the opposite of depression – even when you face the real obstacles of everyday life.

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