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Researcher Finds Health Benefits To World Of Warcraft Play

by Adam Biessener on Apr 07, 2011 at 07:02 AM

Colorado State University associate professor of anthropology Jeffrey Snodgrass recently published two studies that show mental health benefits to certain types of immersive video game playing. Snodgrass used World of Warcraft as a test bed to study the role of gaming as a stress reliever.

The first study describes "altered states" that WoW players enter when deeply involved in the game. Snodgrass found two sides to these intense gaming sessions. On the one hand, many players reported reduced stress levels as a result. Others, however, went too far down the rabbit hole and merely avoided their problems rather than managing emotional stress.

"It is important to note that the escape must be controlled and temporary to be positive, so that it leads to rejuvenation rather than simple problem avoidance, which in the end only increases the experience of stress,” Snodgrass said.

The second study examines the psychological differences between playing MMOs with online-only versus offline, or real-life friends. The finding here was that playing with offline friends had better results, as the non-gaming connection allows those friends to help regulate game time and prevent unhealthy behavior.

However, the deeply immersive experiences that can put the brain into a stress-relieving meditative state are harder to have when playing with offline friends. "You’re losing some benefits of playing such as reducing stress and tension, but you’re also losing some potential for addiction," Snodgrass said.

Our thanks to professor Snodgrass for conducting real, serious research into the psychological effects of video games instead of going out looking for witches to burn. I'd wager that most MMO players have spent time on both sides of this particular stress release/addiction coin, and more research into the phenomenon can only be a good thing.

[Colorado State University via]