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Play your way to better health

Health

PLAYING video games can improve a person’s overall mental health, sense of self worth and cognitive function.

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That’s the view of South Australian Researcher of Psychology

Cocks, an avid gamer, said there was a lot of research on violent games and the potential for them to result in aggressive behaviour but little had been done to determine their positive psychological effects.

 “We know there are links between visual acuity and playing games. There are also links to problem solving and spatial skill development,” she said.

“This particular study will start to examine what are the actual psychological mechanisms at play when we play video games.

“There are pockets of research looking at positive play habits and how that relates to wellbeing but our study is going to be a larger capture of what exactly is going on and what games are beneficial for people to play.”

More than 40 per cent of Americans play video games for at least three hours a week and more than half of those gamers play socially.

Almost a billion people worldwide play games on their smart phones or mobile devices. More than a quarter of gamers are under 18-years-old.

According to the Digital Australia Report 2016, about 98 per cent of homes with children have video games and about 90 per cent of parents play video games with their children every week.

“Research shows that multiplayer video games can help people develop socially. Moderate game play (7-10 hours per week) has been correlated with better mental health when compared with non-gamers and excessive gamers,” Cocks said.

“Moderate amounts of play are linked to positive mood, relaxation, reduced stress/anxiety, heightened emotional regulation, reduced depression, higher self-esteem, higher self-acceptance, and increases in self-confidence.

“The average age of gamers is around 33-years-old and even older Australians are playing games as well.

“We are just about to start data collection now and once we have compiled our research, which will be in about six months, we hope to highlight the therapeutic benefits. We will be able to show how they are able to affect people in these psychological ways.”

Cocks also founded the website PlayWrite, a personal video games blog, which she later opened up to the public as a platform for the Australian gaming community.

People are able to publish their own experiences, write game reviews and create their own subsequent blogs. PlayWrite also features articles written by game developers and some international authors.

Cocks is writing her PhD in Persuasive Games at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  Last month she presented at the Persuasive Gaming in Context Mini-Conference at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

“They (Persuasive Games) are aimed at changing a player’s attitude. There are also known as ‘serious games’ or ‘games for change’. They are usually designed to teach something, challenge ideas, or change thoughts and/or behaviours,” Cocks said.

“There are lots of new apps and things online where people are using this terminology but there is not a lot of research about how effective they are.

“My PhD studies focus on these persuasive games, and seeks to utilise a psychological foundation to inform the development of a framework for developing interactive media for positive behaviour change.”

Cocks is also regularly involved with convention panels and was recently invited to Oz ComicCon in Adelaide and GX Australia in Sydney.

She is currently based in South Australia and is working with Dr Jennifer Hazel from Sydney to collect enough data for her study on the therapeutic benefits of video games. She said she hoped to complete the study by the end of the year.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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