The Media has a long track record of taking to the Gaming Industry with a baseball bat every time something happens or there is more research on the correlation of mental illness with gaming. What we firstly need to understand is these Journalists who read the research, are not experts in that field, one of the primary aspects they get wrong is Correlation and Causation are not the same word.
There is a Correlation between sales of ice cream and hot days, this does not mean that buying ice cream will cause hot days.
Although I wish it did, I would absolutely be in on that one! Such connections however are being made by mainstream media every single day. Every time the Media screams CAUSE/LINKED if you go back to the research, it doesn’t say anything of the sort, it just says they are commonly found together or there is correlation. Another myth frequently abused is that of violent behaviour amongst the mentally ill.
Mental illness does not cause violent behaviour violent people are violent people, they are just as likely as anyone else to develop a mental illness, however the illness is not the cause for their violent behaviour. Violent behaviour is found amongst the general population for the same reasons.
There are reasons these links actually exist, which are often mentioned by researchers but often ignored by the Media. An aspect of mental illness few are aware of is that the vast majority of people are not aware of the earliest symptoms. Many times we see the onset of mental illness as a sudden thing coming out of the blue, but the truth is for the majority of people they experience mild symptoms for years before recognizing that something is wrong and they need help.
In the same way that violent people are drawn and attracted to violent games due to the way it makes them feel, those who are experiencing the first symptoms of mental illness begin to self medicate. For some it is drinking alcohol, for other’s it is drugs, some even hit the Gym, become workaholics and even gravitate towards games, because it helps them feel better.
These coping mechanisms can be either healthy or unhealthy, it wont necessarily hold the illness at bay either, some bring it on faster(ex. drugs and alcohol), some can help keep symptoms at a minimum for years before it finally comes to light. Keep in mind also that ANYTHING can be used to the point of abuse.
When after being bullied at school all day a child comes home and wants to hug their teddy, it doesn’t mean the teddy did it.
My Daughter’s Step Father and Father both live with mental illness, one far excels at managing it than the other even in spite of his condition being the more acute. Over the last decade I have noticed a distinct difference, their Step Father, even at his lowest of lows remains in some way connected with a community of one form or another through gaming. We know he is at risk when even those connections aren’t being exercised and he cuts himself off entirely. While their Father’s only community connection is through Employment which he no longer has.
(Yes I somehow managed to marry into families with Bipolar twice, a disease that occurs in only 2-3% of the population. you will go into hysteric’s when you find out Both my brother’s married into bipolar families too!)
There are a number of reasons Gaming is beneficial, many of which are covered by the RPG Research Project which I am going to shamelessly steal and attach to the bottom of this post.
Researchers and Mental Health Organisations ALL know that socialisation is critical for mental health, the group they are struggling with the most to facilitate socialisation and communication are Men. It is such a crisis that internationally there are hundreds of Mental health and Community campaigns aimed at men. One of the most prominent run’s next month, it is Movember! there is Man Therapy, Men’s Shed, Living Well and that’s just what I found in a 10 second search.
This is because 80% of all Suicides in Australia are of MEN! Australia is not the only country whose men are hurting. Eighty Percent! That’s more than just Mental Illness, that is a CRISIS!
You will notice that a word I keep repeating here is Community. It really is about community, communication and connection. I highly recommend Religion for Atheists it speaks of the benefits of religion and not throwing the baby out with the bath water, rather learning from the structure of organised religion to extract the benefits. Honestly today’s Gaming Communities are a real world manifestation of the principles outlined in Alain de Botton‘s book in spite of events such as The great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons panic.
I have noticed even I have slowed down on purchasing games by retail. I am enjoying kickstarting and backing start up’s and supporting small companies. Backers genuinely have input into the product and can influence design and production. In the process of kickstarting many of these games they literally Build these communities. Watching these Men communicating and interacting while discussing the mechanics and intricacies throughout our recent backing of Cthulhu Wars is fantastic (sexy even) the Macho-ism which so often isolates them from each other is absent, even girly squeals of delight are expressed as the next stretch goal is unlocked. I find watching men simply communicating is one of the most enthralling things particularly when it is in such a Healthy way!
It always makes me feel very privileged EVERY time I am in a situation where I am allowed to witness such Male interaction without the posturing, bravado and “image” getting in the way isolating them all from each other, even professional sports doesn’t achieve this! and if you still aren’t convinced, the fella’s have gone to the effort of rounding up all the research for you over on RPGstudies.net
Kudos to Gaming you achieved what everyone is only now realising we need to do without anyone having to instruct you to do so! You Sir’s are true Men!
Stolen from RPG Research Project
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF RPG
(varies between tabletop, LARP, & computer-based)
Cooperation with diverse people/cultures/backgrounds
Walking in others shoes/experiences
Exposure to other cultures, religions, histories, belief systems, etc.
Learning/following the rules but also “thinking outside of the box when needed”
Problem solving (e.g. puzzles, riddles, mazes, etc.)
Warfare tactics and strategies
Technologies past and present
Artwork (drawing, painting lead figures, etc.)
General coordination (LARP)
Fine motor skills
Gross motor skills (LARP)
Expanding interpersonal trust
Opening to creativity
Broadening sensory, emotive, and movement, expressiveness (even more so with LARP)
Co-creating new realities with others
Image supplied by Petersen Games