Being quarantined and isolated is never good for the human condition. Humans are foremost social creatures, and a prolonged absence of any interaction is unhealthy for the mental state of a person. 2020 has no doubt left many tearing their hair out from the stress and pressure put upon them by all the negativity in the world. Many turn to their hobbies to calm their nerves from all this stress, doing things ranging from botany to reading, and exercising to video games.
Video games have been around since the 1950’s, providing a means for young children to have fun and relax after a day’s worth of school. Over time, the market demographic for video games expanded from just children and teens, and now to adults. Multiple genres popped up over time, from the classic platformer, to the more complex Real Time Strategy, and the global sensation that are First Person Shooters. All these genres of video games have one thing in common; they provide an escape from the mundane day-to-day of the person playing.
Escapism by its definition is the tendency to seek a distraction or some sort of relief from unpleasant experiences, mainly done via engaging in fantasies or entertainment. This can lead to the formation of a different personality when encountering others online. As one cannot physically interact with another individual, said person can pretend to be someone they’re not. From being a girl (as a guy and vice-versa), to being a beginner when they aren’t, the online world can present a wide avenue for those wanting a momentary escape of who they really are.
It can be likened to switching your face or mask. Jungian Psychology would attribute this to the term “Personas”. To them, it is what you present to the world, what you show that makes you known as the being known as “you”. Online, one can easily switch who they are for another persona, pre-made or otherwise.
For example, a tired student can present themselves as a chivalric knight, spearheading an assault to protect his friends. Another may act as a stoic and taciturn commander, leading squads of armed troops across the battlefield in a strategy for victory.
Video Games are also a medium for people to release their creativity. Games such as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, or Amccus’ Harvest Moon series allow the player to take the role of a mayor or a farmer respectively, shaping the land to whatever they wish and living their ideal life. EA’s Sims is a great example of switching personas, as the player can easily create emulations of themselves and command them to do what they always wished to do or simply even take away their role of being an individual in society and instead be their own version of an omnipotent being.
Some video games nowadays even encourage the player to be healthy, as Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure allows the players to play the game by having them input their actions through specific exercises. This goes well in a study done by the American Psychological Association in 2014 wherein they found that video games are another source of learning, health, and social benefits (Bowen, 2014).
A study done in Oxford University found out that players that had played in a two week set period have reported to have a higher well-being (Johannes, N., Vuorre, M., & Przybylski, A. K., 2020, November 13). This goes in accordance to another study done in Ghent University, Belgium, wherein one of the categories why the participants play video games was catharsis, showing that they play to relax and to be happy. They have likened this catharsis as not that one associated with aggression, but the release of stress and sadness (Bourgonjon, 2015).
2020 has been a stressful year for many people around the world. From the ongoing pandemic, to the individual countries’ problems that affect the citizens, it has been a stress-filled ride from start to finish. It seemed that every month, a new problem arose which merely added more stress to the already growing weight on the shoulders of many. Video Games are there and are readily accessible for those who wish to engage in them, some even free of charge.
So if one finds themselves overwhelmed with the outside world: sit down, turn on your chosen platform, and play the worries away.
Bowen, L. (2014, February). Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds. Monitor on Psychology, 45(2). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/video-game
Johannes, N., Vuorre, M., & Przybylski, A. K. (2020, November 13). Video game play is positively correlated with well-being. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/qrjza
Bourgonjon, J., Vandermeersche, G., De Wever, B., Soetaert, R., & Valcke, M. (2016). Players’ perspectives on the positive impact of video games: A qualitative content analysis of online forum discussions. New Media & Society, 18(8), 1732–1749. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444815569723