Video games: laugh, have fun and be happy
Let's face it, it's International Happy Day on 20 March, and with the stresses of life and everything going on around us, one might wonder what there is to be happy about. Being honest, many of us go through rough patches in our lives, I mean you'd be lying if you said you'd never had one. Most of us have our go-to means of switching off from the outside world, whether it's going out with friends, enjoying a hearty meal at home, or watching your favorite comedy on TV to lift your spirits. Many could argue that, although video games are an effective way to provide a level of immersion to shut everything else out, that they also bring a level of unhappiness in doing so. Although that's true to some degree, there's also a lot of science that suggests video games CAN bring us happiness.
Video games can relax us; it's in the science
Brad Bushman, Ph.D., co-author, and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, conducts several experiments relating to the way we react to video games. He has, for example, analyzed the difference in how players respond to playing a violent video game to playing a more relaxed title. He says "With all the evidence about the dangers of violent video games, it's good to know that game players can choose games that will provide a positive experience,"
Psych Central reported on one such experiment which involved researchers segregating a group of players to play a violent game such as Resident Evil 4, a relaxed game like Endless Ocean and a neutral game like Super Mario Galaxy for 20 minutes. Each player was assigned a reaction task with another (imaginary) player to see how fast they pushed a button prompt. Losers received loud noises into their headset while the winner received small sums of cash. To measure the kindness of a player, it was up to them to determine how loud the noise would be for the loser and how much money the winner would receive.
Bushman explained that the results concluded that "Relaxing video games put people in a good mood. And when people are in a good mood, they are more inclined to help others, and that's better for everyone,"
Getting the get up and go
Although the average player gives their fingers and thumbs a workout using their console controller or a keyboard and mouse, there have been several advances in gaming tech to allow players to leave the comfort of their couch or gaming chair.
The Nintendo Wii, for example, did a great job with lifting players from their seats thanks to the technology built into the Wiimote. Using this motion-sensitive controller, players were able to physically bowl a ball, serve a tennis ball, or smash a home run in baseball. There have been many iterations of this type of technology with the Xbox One Kinect sensor, and more recently, the introduction of VR. The PSVR, for example, uses a headset, a camera, and motion controllers to detect body movement. This allows for tasks such as hitting back a ping pong ball or taking the role of a virtual shopkeeper in games like Job Simulator.
One of the best consoles currently getting us off the sofa is the Nintendo Switch. Using its two Joy-Cons, it allows games like 1-2 Switch to have players competing against one another to shake a soda bottle until it pops or putting the controller toward your mouth to simulate the motion of eating a giant burger!
Introducing exercise into your gaming has hugely positive results on happiness, and that's thanks to the chemicals your body produces to create that joyful feeling - especially when you milk a cow or open a chest faster than your opponent!
Melting away all those stressful emotions
If you've played games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, then you'll probably be wondering what the heck we're going on about here. As reported on by The Independent, one of the main reasons video games are so great at relieving those stressful feelings is due thanks to their ability to distract us from the real world. I'm not saying we should only turn to video games each time we have a bad day at the office, but certainly turn on your Switch or Xbox when you need some downtime if you've already finished your War and Peace bible or the last episode of Stranger Things.
Awaken your inner kid-hood
Many of us have been playing video games since they were just a few years old, but as we get older, life often has a habit of getting in the way of what we want to do. Suddenly we have a job to do, a family to look after, and loads of bills to pay. Setting an hour or two aside a couple of times a week to put the kids to bed, switch on the PS4 and get to playing can instantly revive the same feelings of joy you had when you were a child playing your very first video game. If you still struggle to find that downtime, a smartphone or Nintendo Switch can offer extra chances to play while you are on the morning train commute to work. Whichever way you choose to play, video games provide an unmatched level of immersion to bring those pleasant emotions flooding back into your life.
Now gamer, choose your weapon (or platform), block out some time in your diary and get to having fun again!