Can video games treat mental illness?

We have had a number of discussions over time on the impact of gaming on health, where game addiction is an often heard problem by people parenting their kids. Or positive appliances where gamification is used, and members presenting their apps like PlayFitt and SmaGotcha, or proposing the use of gamification in the classroom to teach Digital Citizenship.

I found another interesting resource on positive effects that games can have, where there are scientific insights that games can be used to treat mental ilnesses and goes against the stereotypes we have of typical frequent gamers:

There’s many aspects addressed in the article, like e.g. games can provide clarity:

Whereas personal problems often seem as though they are too large and multifarious to confront head-on, video games provide players with clear-cut objectives the completion of which is all but intuitive. Needless to say, the act of doing so has shown to provide them with confidence, assurance, and independence.

It mentions games can be based on the PERMA model that @ibaldo also brought up in Human Flourishing Design Guide: the science of well-being in the service of technology design

Coincidentally, this sense of accomplishment makes up an important part of what is known to clinicians as the PERMA model. Devised by American psychologist Martin Seligman, it is a theory of flourishing mental health that’s made up of five components (the others being positive emotion, engagement, relationships, and meaning), each of which happens to correspond with a particular pillar of video game design.

Here’s a research article gathering a lot of evidence of video game positive impacts on every dimension of PERMA: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00260/full

It is prudent to say that there may be better ways to promote well-being, as this study objectively suggests: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1054139X16301781

I also think it’s very important to mention that promoting well-being and flourishing doesn’t mean to end mental illness. It is perfectly possible to experience well-being and flourishing while having high mental illness. Mental illness and mental health are not opposites of the same spectrum but two different dimensions that can co-exist. This means that a person can have high mental illness and high mental health at the same time. In layperson’s terms, an individual can be happy and sad at the same time.

The use of PERMA to treat mental illness is a field of psychotherapy called Positive Psychotherapy.

Thank you for mentioning Human Flourishing Design Guide, @aschrijver. I do believe the HFDG could be used to design video-games that support human flourishing. I would actually love to see it happening :laughing: