Psychology & Video Games

Video Games as a Complementary Therapy Technique


For a while now, I have been back at school finishing my psychology degree. I have a theory and am starting to research it even further. My theory is; that video games can be designed to treat, and potentially cure, each mental disorder out there. Now it’s not a definite, but it is a theory I will be studying. However, as I said, at this moment in time it is only a theory. As I am conducting my research, there are other articles/research/discoveries that will, no doubt, be beneficial to this line of reasoning. Therefore, I believe that certain kinds of video games have a positive impact to the overall well-being of our minds, and can supplement our mental health.

Video Games + Disorders = Therapy?

I want to start with an article that I recently discovered about a company in Europe creating video games specifically designed for treating mental disorders. I found this idea to be similar to what I want to do with my therapeutic techniques. It’s ultimately my goal to incorporate these techniques with my patrons, and I think that video games already exist which help disorders. It’s just a matter of finding the right style/genre to pair with the correct minds. Once this is mapped the goal would be establishing a way to specifically design these games. The next step would be finding a way to prevent the disorders once symptoms arise. This is certainly very overwhelming to deal with, but I think as a society we have the potential to reach these levels.

Now there is a study done by Fernández-Aranda F, S Jiménez-Murcia, JJ Santamaría, K Gunnard, A Soto, E Kalapanidas, & RG Bults, 2012, and the aim is, “The purpose of our project was to develop and evaluate a serious video game designed to remediate attitudinal, behavioural and emotional processes of patients with impulse-related disorders. Method and results: The video game was created and developed within the European research project PlayMancer. It aims to prove potential capacity to change underlying attitudinal, behavioural and emotional processes of patients with impulse-related disorders. New interaction modes were provided by newly developed components, such as emotion recognition from speech, face and physiological reactions, while specific impulsive reactions were elicited. The video game uses biofeedback for helping patients to learn relaxation skills, acquire better self-control strategies and develop new emotional regulation strategies. In this article, we present a description of the video game used, rationale, user requirements, usability and preliminary data, in several mental disorders.”

As time has gone by, technology in our lives is increasing, and changing, in ways that we cannot possibly imagine. Sure, maybe we are not as advanced as a lot of futuristic movies; we do not have holograms, nor do we have hovercrafts. However, we are getting to a point that we are evolving, and part of that is through our advancing technologies. That said, we cannot ignore the basis of our human nature. The capacity of evolution, what it does to us through our physiology, spirituality, and our mentality is always an aspect to remember as we move forward. The past cannot be let go. It is there to help us through the teaching of lessons. As we move forward as a species I think that video games, and how they are advancing and becoming more accepted in society, are important to utilize as a beneficial tool that can help with our evolution. Especially with regards to our mental capacity and health.

The short-term effects of the study are appearing to be that the subjects are showing new coping styles with regards to negative emotions in stressful situations present in normal life, they are able to generalize life patterns better like forming boundaries and are more self-controlled when certain strategies are used. In previous studies, working with underlying attitudinal and emotional factors helps with impulse control disorders. This could reduce their potential capacity and long-term effectiveness of customary therapies (Freidenberg et al., 2002; Goldin & Gross, 2010; Kozasa et al., 2012). This means new technological approaches in video games have potential to be positively used as techniques in therapy. Sounds good to me!


This particular research’s results are that as technological approaches to therapy have been increasing, the lack of literature regarding use of video games and controlled studies analyzing its effectiveness gets ignored (Fernández-Aranda F, S Jiménez-Murcia, JJ Santamaría, K Gunnard, A Soto, E Kalapanidas, & RG Bults, 2012). In other words, many people keep focusing on creation and design, but tracking the information is not as potent. Due to this the history and reporting is lost. Fortunately, the PlayMancer trials are still ongoing, and will hopefully confirm more of these results. This makes me happy because it means that video game therapy is a growing field worth consideration.



p style=”text-align:left;”>Fernández-Aranda F, S Jiménez-Murcia, JJ Santamaría, K Gunnard, A Soto, E Kalapanidas, RG Bults, et al. 2012. “Video games as a complementary therapy tool in mental disorders: PlayMancer, a European multicentre study”. Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England). 21 (4): 364-74.
Freidenberg, B.M., Blanchard, E.B., Wulfert, E., & Malta, L.S. (2002). Changes in physiological arousal to gambling cues among participants in motivationally enhanced cognitive-behavior therapy for pathological gambling: A preliminary study. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 27(4), 251–260.

Goldin, P.R., & Gross, J.J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83–91. 

Link to article


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s