Guest Column | April 12, 2017

How Nintendo Therapy Can Improve Your Patient's Mental Health

Marie Miguel

By Marie Miguel

If you’re a critic of video games and how they shape young minds, you might want to reconsider as new insights indicate video games may help a person’s mental health instead of harm it as has been argued in the past. These assertions are based on research conducted on Nintendo Therapy and other visual forms of therapy over the past decade.

Molecular Psychiatry writes of a study of the Nintendo game Tetris conducted in The United Kingdom on a control group which had witnessed or were part of a traumatic experience such as a fatal car accident. For the study, 71 people who witnessed a traumatic incident within hours of the study participated with 37 of those participants playing Tetris for 20 minutes. The remaining 34 logged their activities — which included texting, reading, and watching TV — during their hospital stays.

Researchers concluded Tetris and similar games can “offer a low-intensity means that could substantially improve the mental health of those who have experienced psychological trauma.” Additionally, other games such as Candy Crush Saga can have the same positive effects.

How Video Games Help Improve Mental Health

The study assessed the effects of Tetris’ — which uses multiple polygon shapes in various formats and colors to clear rows of blocks at a time — on a player’s mind. It provided insight into the minds of gamers and how those games improve mental health, including:

  • They help relieve stress: Through storytelling and other elements, players are able to get lost in the game. Much like books, video games allow players to travel to other places, time periods, and more. Using buttons and joysticks allows those with anxiety and panic attacks to focus on things other than an impending or current attack.
  • They prioritize memories: Video games use parts of the brain that allow for focus on the now rather than the past or future. This is a vital element in reducing stress and preventing patients from dwelling on traumatic memories or events. Players are focused on keeping the Tetris blocks from reaching the top than current stressors. If a patient plays Tetris or a similar game right after a traumatic experience, studies show it could help you them cope with the experience and stabilize it. Emotions, thoughts, and behaviors related to the trauma could be lessened.
  • They help decrease levels of addiction: An Australian-based study published by Addictive Behaviors states Tetris and other video games can reduce dependencies on drugs, alcohol, nicotine, food, sex, gambling, and other addictions. Players are enthralled in the game at the moment, reducing cravings and helping during detoxification periods.

As technology develops and virtual reality takes shape, Nintendo Therapy and other forms of digital therapies could help individuals in myriad ways.

Additional Resources
If you have patients in need of help during or after a traumatic event, advise them to seek out a licensed professional or consider directing them to online resources such as BetterHelp.

About The Author
Marie Miguel is an avid internet researcher. She is fueled by her determination to answer the many questions she hasn't been able to find the answer to anywhere else. When she finds these answers she likes to spread the knowledge to others seeking help. She is always looking for outlets to share her information, therefore she occasionally has her content published on different websites and blogs. Even though she doesn't run one for herself she loves contributing to others.