Video Games Can Boost Mental Health

Video games for your health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Are you aware of your mental health? (Newsflash, buddy! It’s with you all the time, whether it’s improving, holding steady, or deteriorating.) You certainly can’t get away from it, so you might as well be aware of it. Even better than being aware of it, you can equip yourself with tools to easily improve it. Did you know that playing a video game after experiencing a traumatic event can change the way you remember it? 

Visuospatial Tasks & Working Memory

A 2015 study — Computer Game Play Reduces Intrusive Memories of Experimental Trauma via Reconsolidation-Update Mechanisms — concluded that playing Tetris within 24 hours of a traumatic experience made memories of that experience less intrusive in the future. That is, the participants were less disturbed by memories of their trauma if their brains were performing taxing visuospatial tasks soon after it occurred.

The researchers noted that Tetris “competes for the same working memory resources” which is why it’s effective in changing a person’s experience of their traumatic memories. While the study was very limited (it’s more or less impossible to study the effects of immediate interventions on a broad range of traumas without torturing your subjects), it does indicate that the lasting effect of an experience might depend on our immediate reaction to it.

Maintaining Mental Health During Emergencies

In the context of disasters, occupying your working memory could provide a useful mental health boost! The aftermath of a natural disaster often sees people displaced from their homes and waiting for information, sometimes without much else to do. If we prioritized filling the downtime immediately after disasters with video games or other visuospatial tasks, would we create more resilient survivors?


Examples of other visuospatial tasks: drawing, working on jigsaw puzzles, folding origami, playing with LEGOs, putting together flat pack furniture, making models, etc

Now is a great time to stock your Go Bag with something that will engage both your brain and your hands to keep yourself on track for good mental health in the event of a crisis. Best of luck out there, fellow nerds! See you on the Tetris leaderboard.

Time to call your mom and tell her that all those video games didn’t rot your brain after all.

About the Author

Writer, editor, and professional joker with an environmental science background. Like most trivia nerds, she's an ardent admirer of Only Connect competitors, but more at home on the QI field.

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