Playing Video Games Is Good For The Health, Claims Game Developer Jane McGonigal

Gamers, young and old, spend hours a day playing video games. And, while many say that playing video games is bad for the health, one game designer said that playing video games is actually good for the health.

Jane McGonigal, an author and game designer, recently spoke at The Nantucket Project to say that she believes playing video games is good for people. One of the reasons she stated why playing video games is healthy is because people who play are “wholeheartedly engaged in creative challenges.” According to Time, McGonigal’s claim is backed by science, as she said that gaming is the opposite of depression.

“…real sense of optimism in our abilities and our opportunities to get better and succeed, and more physical and mental energy to engage with difficult problems. And that is actually the physiological and psychological state of game play.”

McGonigal said that brain scans of people who engage in video games show the most activity in brain areas that are associated with goal orientation and motivation. These two areas, she says, are not too active for people who suffer from depression.

As Macleans reported, Jane McGonigal suffered a traumatic concussion and afterwards had bouts of suicidal thoughts and depression. It was then that she created her own video game, Jane the Concussion Slayer, to help herself heal.

This wasn’t the first time that McGonigal spoke out about gaming making the world better. In 2010, Jane presented at a TED conference. You can watch the video here.

McGonigal developed Jane the Concussion Slayer into an app and game entitled, SuperBetter, in order to help patients with chronic illnesses, brain injuries, depression, and anxiety. In an interview, she talked about how her game helps other people.

“So much evidence and so much research is piling up. Neuroscientists, psychologists, medical researchers are looking at this. On the other hand, there’s lots of skepticism that’s deserved. We look at brain-training games, and neuroscientists who have studied them found they don’t do the things they’re claimed to do. Tetris really can help you prevent PTST, but a brain-training game is not going to help you remember where you left your keys.”

Jane McGonigal has also received praise for SuperBetter. She says that she hears from users of the app/game who are going through something more difficult than what she experienced going through her concussion. This drove her to research more and back her claims with science. According to McGonigal, she says, “I’ve got to understand the science. Otherwise, who will believe this?”

With her research and the effectiveness of her game, Jane McGonigal no longer says that people who play games are gamers. Instead, she calls them “super empowered hopeful individuals.”

[Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images]