Video games don’t always have a good reputation or a good reputation. Shortly before the pandemic, the WHO officially recognized the Video Game Disorder. However, once containment began, the WHO and other authorities recommended video games as a healthy activity during a pandemic. Of course, like anything, moderation and some supervision is required, but it is increasingly recognized that video games have beneficial effects on society and on mental health, especially in these difficult times when many people find themselves isolated. We spoke with two experts on the issue, Alexane Couturier and Elsa Brais-Dussault.
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Alexane Couturier is a doctoral student in semiotic studies at UQAM and researcher for the research group Homo Ludens whose work focuses on playful practices, digital devices and online communication. Since the beginning of her graduate studies, she has specialized in the study of video games and she is currently doing a doctorate in semiotic studies where her research interests are mainly in autofiction in video games, with the expressive and persuasive potential of this medium. , as well as censorship and propaganda techniques in the digital age. Since the start of the pandemic, she has noticed changes in the media and political discourse vis-à-vis video games.
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Change of media discourse
Alexane Coutirer: ” Before the pandemic, it is most often the negative aspects and the potential harmful effects of video games that are dealt with in the mainstream media – in particular the problems related to violent behavior or to the addiction caused by this form of entertainment.
However, since the start of the health crisis, it has been possible to observe a change, even a reversal, in the media discourse with regard to the uses and effects of video games. Indeed, video games generally seem to enjoy much more positive media coverage than before – if only by doing a brief survey of the headlines of articles in newspapers and on news sites.
Most of the articles we read look at how video games can break isolation, maintain social ties and relax. But the list of beneficial effects and usefulness of video games does not end there. Articles also highlight how certain video game productions can serve as an educational tool and thus contribute to distance learning for young people at school. Other games, particularly simulation games, can help us better understand the mechanisms and issues related to the current health crisis. “
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Change of political discourse
Alexane Coutirer: ” This change in discourse is also noticeable on the political level, that is to say at the level of public and health authorities. Video games suddenly represent an activity and a hobby likely to promote respect for hygiene and social distancing measures by encouraging young people (and the not so young) to interact and play with others from a distance. The video game contributes to the “war effort” by constituting a kind tool that promotes and encourages socializing and online entertainment.
Barely two years ago, in 2019, the WHO added “video game disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases. Despite everything, last spring, faced with the rapid progression of the virus on a global scale, the WHO gave its support to the “#PlayApartTogether” campaign and worked with many video game companies to raise awareness among gamers. health guidelines and thereby encourage their application.
A similar campaign, titled “#Swash COVID,” was also launched in October – a joint initiative of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian video game industry.
In Quebec more specifically, the INSPQ published last spring, in response to the drastic increase in screen time of the population since the start of the pandemic, a document presenting a series of recommendations for a healthy and balanced use of various electronic devices, including video games. Among the recommendations, we can read that the use of so-called “active” video games – we can think here for example of the series Just dance or to Ring Fit Adventure – is particularly to be privileged since they allow to do physical exercise and therefore to exert oneself while staying at home. As an alternative to video games and to reduce screen time, the INSPQ also suggests that families play board games. “
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The beneficial effects on mental health
To discuss the mental health aspect more, we spoke with Elsa Brais-Dussault, psychologist and Founder of LudiPsy: mental health and gamification.
Elsa Brais-Dussault: “ In this period of confinement, the positive impacts of video games (PC, consoles, digital games, virtual reality games, etc.) on the mental health and well-being of individuals are truly highlighted. We are reclaiming video games and we are rediscovering how they can contribute, not only to breaking social isolation, but also to meeting new people on online games, to discovering new interests and hobbies. time, to develop cognitive and reflective skills, to gain self-confidence and to reinforce a sense of personal accomplishment.
Play is a fun form of innate learning. Video games then become an ideal medium for interactions between individuals. Through video games, and the pleasure generated, people learn to create links, develop a bond, listen and communicate actively and effectively. Each genre of video games can contribute to the mental well-being of individuals. A cooperative video game is therefore an ideal social activity to spend quality time with your children or family, while online video games can promote socialization skills and break social isolation. ”