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FRONTBURNR | September 22, 2014

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Casual Video Games Are Cheaper Than Therapy

| On 07, May 2013

Casual games might work just as well at treating depression and anxiety as the average headshrinker and his cocktail of drugs.

East Carolina University published two studies–both underwritten by PopCap–which show a strong correlation between playing casual video games and the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression symptoms.

The 2011 study boasts decrease in tension [49.6%], anger [55%], depression [50%], fatigue [57%], confusion [50%], and an increase in vigor [33%] (slide 33).

“The results of this randomized clinical study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on depression and anxiety symptoms. In our opinion these findings support the use of prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or even replacement for, standard therapies including medication.” (slide 53)

Suggesting clinically depressed folks just sit around and play Bejeweled 2 instead of utilizing modern talk therapy and medication seems like a heck of a potentially dangerous leap to me.

Jump gif

But what about the folks who are just a bit down? And/or the people out there who need help but either can’t afford it or are too embarrassed to seek help? Playing a Facebook game just might be better than nothing.

Yup gif

There are tons of casual Facebook games out there just waiting to relax you and wash away your depression and fatigue.

And they’re free. Pretty much. Kind of.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you don’t get sucked into the black hole that is Candy Crush’s charms. The Charm of Stripes will set you back 399 Facebook credits…$39.90 actual good ole American dollars.

Then again, even if you did buy all of the charms for the quite hefty sum of $81.70, you’re still looking at a substantially lower sum than if you have to pay out of pocket for an hour with a psychologist.

I’m not a huge fan of either of these studies, partly due to their small sample sizes but also partly due to feeling like the well was almost poisoned when PopCap underwrote the studies. Even with my reservations, I can’t help but be intrigued.

I play casual games all the time. Hell, I got sucked in when I hopped over to Facebook to check the prices on those dumb charms.

After a bit of time wasting on a couple of games, I do feel a bit more relaxed. Being able to mindlessly click away stupid candy and rant about stupid chocolate gives my scattered brain a chance to put up the proverbial “Out To Lunch” sign and just chill. When I get back to actually doing some work, I’m more focused.

Pretending to work

If these studies are to believed, you finally have a scientific excuse for wasting countless hours on Bejeweled: it’s therapy!

What do you think? Are casual games actually a valid treatment for common mental ills or are casual games just an excuse to screw off and not get done with your work?