Gaming Human Interest

Can Games Help Against Depression?

Can Games Help Against Depression
Written by Izak Van Heerden

Depression affects millions of Americans. It takes many forms.

There is major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder and seasonal depression to name a few. The current state of lockdown and its effect on people will also be studied by psychiatric researchers for years to come.

Depression can be debilitating for many and impede the personal and work life of those afflicted with it. For this reason, it’s important to examine anything that depressed individuals can do to alleviate the symptoms and gain some control over their lives.

While plenty of pharmaceuticals and various therapy techniques have been developed to help those with depression, some are starting to look at games as combat mechanism. Some studies have focused on a therapeutic effect from video games while others believe gamification, in general, may help those with depression lead more productive lives.

Can Games Help Against Depression - Gamify Everything

What Is Gamification?

According to Wikipedia, gamification is the “application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.” In other words, you find a way to incorporate all those elements that make playing games so fun and enjoyable to normal life activities. These include things such as leveling systems where you “level up” in a game after your character completes certain actions. Various other achievements, checklists and rewards can also be included in this.


Gamification is being used as a marketing tool to help companies increase their customer loyalty and sales revenue. There are, however, interesting ways that it could be applied to making average activities in your life more enjoyable when depression makes you feel like sitting around doing nothing. You could set up rewards for yourself every time you’ve reached a certain level of activity. For example, if you’re a writer, you might reward yourself with a prize of your choice for every 2,000 words you write.

There is a video on the concept of gamification that explores real-world examples of incorporating gaming elements to make day-to-day tasks more enjoyable. An employee with a barcode scanner is far more engaged in scanning items with it when there’s a progress bar on the scanner and some reward for hitting a certain number. An employee could also get some reward for going a certain number of weeks without a customer complaint.

Video Games

Video games are a perfect example of what comes to your mind when thinking about games. These run the gamut from simple phone app games that you can play anywhere up to hardcore first-person shooters or action-adventure games that you play on a console or home PC.

Pokémon Go” is one game at the phone app end of the gaming spectrum that has been a subject of some research for its benefits to those with depression. The way it’s played lends itself to increased physical activity and more social behavior by those playing it.

3 Strategies to Gather Stardust in Pokémon Go Fast

Pokemon Go has seen some changes recently to encourage playing from home

There has been some evidence that action video games can increase cognition and decrease rumination in people diagnosed with depression. A big benefit in the use of games in helping relieve depression is how easily accessible they are compared to traditional therapy, which can be cost-prohibitive or unavailable in certain areas.

Games are thought to help in a few specific ways. One of these is engagement. Compare playing a video game to watching TV for example. you sit there passively watching TV, but you are “playing” a video game. You are involved. You are moving a character around on screen or performing other similar actions and having to think about what to do next.

Video games also provide the player with motivation. This is typically through a numerical scoring system although other methods can be employed to sweeten the motivational reward. You may level up with greater powers or weapons, depending on the type of game, after a certain number of achievements.

There may also be ranks you can earn and various items of value in playing the game that become unlocked, or available to you, only after you’ve reached certain levels. In addition to being more accessible, as previously mentioned, there’s little to no social stigma to gaming compared to seeking conventional mental health treatment for depression.

Games Specifically for Depression

The value of games in treating depression is not lost on some of those who make video games. A recent article in The New York Times points out certain video game titles that are actually geared toward being therapeutic for people with certain disorders, including depression.

“Sea of Solitude,” which strikes at the core of loneliness so common to those with depression. “Celeste”, a video game that enables players to delve into the issues of depression and anxiety. As the benefits of gaming become more apparent to those with depression and other mental disorders, the number of such titles that seek to help should only be increasing.

Incorporate Gaming Into Your Life

Are you finding it impossible to get started working on those tasks you know you need to get done today? Start by taking them one at a time, and then you could try assigning a certain number of points to each task depending on how important it is or how much time it takes. Give yourself a reward in the form of something you truly enjoy once you’ve reached a certain number of points. Beyond this gamification example, you could also try an actual video game or two if you’re not currently into any. You might want to try ones, such as Pokémon Go, that also get you out of the house.

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Izak Van Heerden
Izak has witnessed a couple of decades worth of changing tech. He hopes to make it a couple more until his conscience can be copied to a cyborg body.

About the author

Izak Van Heerden

Izak has witnessed a couple of decades worth of changing tech. He hopes to make it a couple more until his conscience can be copied to a cyborg body.

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