Should commercial video games be used in therapy?

Get Started. It's Free
or sign up with your email address
Rocket clouds
Should commercial video games be used in therapy? by Mind Map: Should commercial video games be used in therapy?

1. Examples of Use

1.1. Blackmon, Wayne D. “Dungeons and Dragons: The Use of a Fantasy Game in the Psychotherapeutic Treatment of a Young Adult.” American Journal of Psychotherapy, vol. 48, no. 4, Feb. 1994, pp. 624–632., doi:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1994.48.4.624.

1.1.1. This case report details a young man with a schizoid personality disorder and depression who felt an extreme sense of isolation throughout childhood and attempted suicide at age 19. He went to conventional therapy, but was unable to make any kind of breakthrough until he joined a Dungeons and Dragons group, and with the help of his therapist, used this fantasy world to expose and deal with his emotions. The author is the therapist of the young man, a licensed, practicing therapist. This case report provides excellent evidence for me to use in advocating for why video game use should be considered in therapy. We have the case of a young man for whom traditional therapy was not effective, and only through a fantasy world in which he was involved were his inner emotions able to be accessed and dealt with. While this occurred in 1994 and is regarding a tabletop game, I believe that it is still extremely relevant in making my point.

1.2. Terdiman, Daniel. “Second Life Teaches Life Lessons.” Wired, Conde Nast, 4 June 2017,

1.2.1. This article showcases some examples of organizations using the MMO Second Life to help socially integrate a variety of people, from abused Portuguese children to sufferers of cerebral palsy and autism. They describe the game and its world as a way to strip away physical barriers that exist in the real world. The article also shows an assistant professor at the Wharton School who uses Second Life as a virtual platform to try out business ideas, as you can create and run businesses in game. The author wrote articles for Wired from 2003 to 2005 and has gone on to work for the New York Times, Time Magazine, and more. There is little to no opinion in the article so as far as I can tell it is credible. This article provides additional ways in which video games can be used to help people with issues other than depression and anxiety, including physical medical conditions like cerebral palsy.

1.3. Anguera, Joaquin A., et al. “Improving Late Life Depression and Cognitive Control through the Use of Therapeutic Video Game Technology: A Proof-of-Concept Randomized Trial.” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 34, no. 6, 3 June 2017, pp. 508–517., doi:10.1002/da.22588.

1.3.1. The research team in this study conducted a 4 week trial involving elderly patients with late-life depression (age 60+) with one group being treated with problem solving therapy, and another with digital platform designed enhance cognitive control faculties. The end result of the study was that both groups achieved similar outcomes, with the digital platform group adhering to the treatment at a 100% rate. The research team then suggests that further research be done to confirm what was found here. The team consists of three researchers, two associated with major universities, and one associated with a medical research group. The details of their methods and results are shown in the report. This study uses a video game adjacent program in its study, so it may not be entirely useful to me in answering my research question. It however does highlight a stakeholder group that I had not previously considered, which is the elderly. In my mind, my topic was wholly focused on millennials and generation Z, who are the main consumers of video games.

2. Background Information

2.1. Scott, Jonathan, and Alison P. Porter-Armstrong. “Impact of Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games upon the Psychosocial Well-Being of Adolescents and Young Adults: Reviewing the Evidence.” Psychiatry Journal, vol. 2013, 28 Mar. 2013, pp. 1–8., doi:10.1155/2013/464685.

2.1.1. This piece is meant to analyze previous research done into the effects on the psychosocial wellbeing of people who play MMORPGs. By studying research done from 2002 to 2012, they find strong correlations to both positive and negative effects, resulting in no conclusion on whether these games are overall positive or negative, but simply that they very likely impact the people that play them. They call for more methodical research to be done in this area. Both authors of the study are researchers at the University of Ulster in the UK. The time span of the studies that they analyze should still contain very relevant data. While this meta-study does not refer to therapy specifically, I believe that it can be used alongside other sources in order to bolster arguments for video game use in therapy as well as present some of the counterarguments against this.

2.2. Earl, Ryan M. “Video Game Use as a Tool for Assessing and Intervening with Identity Formation and Social Development in Family Therapy.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 39, no. 1, 14 Mar. 2018, pp. 5–20., doi:10.1002/anzf.1282.

2.2.1. This article is directed towards family therapists and is designed to explain a (brief) history of video games, how they contribute to identity formation and social development, and how they may be used as a clinical assessment and intervention tool. The author believes that the majority of therapists do not understand how much of an impact video games have on the lives of those who play them, and is trying to highlight the fact that there have been massive changes in identity and social formation in a relatively short amount of time. The author is associated with Northwestern University, but states that not all of his information is founded in research. I believe that this article can be useful in providing background information on both video games and how video games affect identity and social formation. This can be used as a primer to explain why therapy involving video games can both be more effective and bring in patients who would otherwise not seek therapy.

3. Research into topic

3.1. Carras, Michelle Colder, et al. “Commercial Video Games As Therapy: A New Research Agenda to Unlock the Potential of a Global Pastime.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 8, 22 Jan. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00300.

3.1.1. The team that authored this piece states that there has been preliminary research that shows that commercial video games can be used in a number of different ways to positively be incorporated into different medical fields, and that there should be more research done into this topic. They also believe that there must be a greater effort into standardizing language used about video games in order to support this effort. This piece was written by 7 researchers associated with major universities, notably Johns Hopkins. They cite over 50 sources of primary research in order to draw their conclusion. This piece clearly displays evidence that directly answers my research question, and also proposes a plan for the future, which I have seen in other pieces, and can be an interesting section in my final report.

3.2. Blaha, Amy. MMOs as Therapy: A Therapeutic Tool or a Barrier to Psychological Growth? 9 May 2006,

3.2.1. The author sets out to discover whether video games, specifically MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) can be used in therapy to treat things like depression, anxiety, and phobias through literature reviews, interviews with gamers, and her own gaming experience. She concludes that while there are potential negatives to MMOs, there are a significant number of positive outcomes that can and have occurred. She specifically commends groups like Project Brigadoon and Live2Give for their work on this issue. The author is an undergraduate student who wrote this paper in 2006 – neither of these things lend much in the way of credibility. This is one of the first pieces that I found on this topic, and I am keeping it around because I believe that the interviews conducted with gamers will serve an important role in getting a more personal view of the topic in contrast to most of the other pieces that I am planning on using, which mostly include data from researchers.