Posted March 17, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Casual games can relieve stress


How do you manage your stress? Forget about soft lights, forget about calming Buddhist mantras, and forget about soothing whale song, they are all soooo last year.

Two recent research pieces by East Carolina University suggests a less traditional approach to keeping the blood pressure under control can be very effective. Gaming company PopCap asked the good fellows at East Carolina to look into the effect that casual gaming can have on stress levels. Popcap had been trying to quantify the benefits of casual gaming for some time.

The study involved 134 participants with a control group of 31 individuals. The control group was monitored in the same way as other participants who were also playing from a selection of PopCap games such as Peggle, Bejeweled 2 and Bookworm Adventures. Heart rate variations were measured along with a range of psychological data and ECG readings before and during game play. The tests were all designed to measure the impact on depression, anger, fatigue and vigour levels.

Unsurprisingly the study found that casual game play had an effect on all of the measures being considered although the specific impact depended on the game being played and the gender of the participant. Patients playing the games showed significant drops in measured levels of depression across the study group. Mood seemed to improve with an average 55 percent drop in anger levels and a 58% improvement in levels of reported fatigue.

The researchers trumpeted that certain games (probably only PopCap titles) all demonstrate an “intrinsic casual value” (their words – not mine) having significant effects on depression and anxiety symptoms.

The studies go on to conclude that their findings demonstrate that prescribed casual gaming can be an effective replacement for standard treatments and therapies, even including the replacement of medication.

Now, call me sceptical but let’s think about this. A first study commissioned by ProCap comes out with some warm glow statements and that then leads to a second commission by the same vested interest. Perhaps I am being to ungracious but I can’t see xBox, Playtation 3 or Nintendo being made available on the NHS as treatments for stress and anxiety. I just don’t see National Institute for health and Care Excellence getting behind this one. Sorry boys!