Are There Mental Health Benefits of Video Games?

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

There are many misconceptions about video games and the impact they have on mental health. The truth is that video games have many benefits, including developing complex problem-solving skills and promoting social interaction through online gaming. Video games can be a great way to stimulate your mind and improve your mental health. 

Playing video games has numerous benefits for your mental health. Video games can help you relieve stress and get your mind going. Some benefits include: 

Mental stimulation. Video games often make you think. When you play video games, almost every part of your brain is working to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, you may have to think, strategize, and analyze quickly. Playing video games works with deeper parts of your brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.

Feeling accomplished. In the game, you have goals and objectives to reach. Once you achieve them, they bring you a lot of satisfaction, which improves your overall well-being. This sense of achievement is heightened when you play games that give you trophies or badges for certain goals. Trying to get more achievements gives you something to work toward. 

Mental health recovery. Regardless of the type, playing games can help with trauma recovery. Video games can act as distractions from pain and psychological trauma. Video games can also help people who are dealing with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Social interaction. Multiplayer and online games are good for virtual social interaction. In fast-paced game settings, you’ll need to learn who to trust and who to leave behind within the game. Multiplayer games encourage cooperation. It’s also a low-stakes environment for you to test out talking to and fostering relationships with new people. 

Emotional resilience. When you fail in a game or in other situations, it can be frustrating. Video games help people learn how to cope with failure and keep trying. This is an important tool for children to learn and use as they get older. 

Despite what people may think, playing video games boosts your mood and has lasting effects. Whether you’re using gaming to spend time with your friends or to release some stress, it's a great option. 

Playing video games has been linked to improved moods and mental health benefits. It might seem natural to think that violent video games like first-person shooters aren’t good for your mental health. However, all video games can be beneficial for different reasons.

Try strategic video games. Role-playing and other strategic games can help strengthen problem-solving skills. There’s little research that says violent video games are bad for your mental health. Almost any game that encourages decision-making and critical thinking is beneficial for your mental health. 

Set limits. Though video games themselves aren’t bad for your mental health, becoming addicted to them can be. Spending too much time gaming can lead to isolation. You may also not want to be around people in the real world. When you start to feel yourself using video games as an escape, you might need to slow down.

If you can’t stop playing video games on your own, you can contact a mental health professional.  

Play with friends. Make game time fun by playing with friends. There are online communities you can join for your favorite games. Moderate gaming time with friends can help with socialization, relaxation, and managing stress. 

Video games stop being good for you when you play an excessive amount. More than 10 hours per week is considered “excessive.” In these cases, you may:

  • Have anxious feelings
  • Be unable to sleep
  • Not want to be in social settings

Another troubling sign is using video games to escape real life. As noted above, this type of behavior can lead to video game addiction, which then leads to other negative behaviors. Too much gaming can become a problem, but in moderation, it can do great things for your mental health.