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Online gaming: The impact it has on mental health

Fredrick Tendong/Unsplash

'Video games are like medicine'

A lot of people know online gaming from personal experience or from a friend or family. The medium allows players to interact with people that could be thousands of miles away.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in video gaming increased in a big way. According to, a site that specializes in market and consumer data, the 2022 gaming market value is more than 50% higher compared to before the pandemic.

But it’s not just sales that are up — the comradery and friendships that develop in the gaming community can raise spirits as well.

“Friendships that would have never been forged in any other world except through online gaming," said Joe Markowiak, a gamer from Alpena, Michigan.

Joe is friends with others he met in online games, who come from areas that stretch across the U.S. One of Joe’s online friends was diagnosed with cancer, so he and his gaming team became the support system.

“Somebody like Sean, the guy from Colorado, had all our support. And you know, he didn't have too much family and we were over there helping him through some of his mental problems going through cancer.”

Joe said his friend recovered and still plays online games with the group.

And, it seems, gaming is good, not just for people looking for support, but for those seeking competition.

Another Alpena gamer, Kameron Williams, said online games allow him and his friends to have competition without physical limitations.

“I can talk crap to my friends, and I can compete against somebody," he said. "Because I grew up playing every sport in the book. I was on the football team. I was on the golf team. I played soccer for eight years. And now that I'm older, I can't do that. You can but you can’t, you know what I mean?

"And so, it just gives me a way to like kind of keep that competitive fire going against all my buds that I would normally have in high school.”

William says his wife will see he is having a bad day and suggests playing on his home console to relieve stress.

Joe and Kameron were interviewed after responding to an online survey I created for this story. The survey asked gamers how their favorite past time affects their mental health.

63% of respondents said they have experienced harassment or bullying from other players. But even more, 73% said overall, online gaming has been a positive experience.

Varun Singireddy, an associate professor of digital animation and game design at Ferris State University, said video games "are like medicine". He said under the right conditions and with the right games, players can refresh their minds.

“You also need to know what games you could play, what kind of company you can engage in and what kind of friends group you need," Singireddy said. "You know whether you have to play a casual kind of a game to alleviate any kind of mental health concerns, or you have to play a professional game.”

Singireddy says online gaming can help relieve stress, but, he says, it should be treated like any other medicine.

“Anything in overdose is, could be poisonous, could be fatal. There's a there's also some toxicity in online gaming that comes into play here that could instead of alleviating pain, that could cause some more pain, especially mental pressure because of some of the language that they use and the frustrations and the anger and rage in a few situations that these games create that could have a negative impact on mental health as well.”

Singireddy said he plays online games with his students, and he said those students talk to him about problems they are facing in and out of the classroom. He said it is because his students see him more as a person they can talk to due to their increased communication through games.

Even if that personal connection comes through a computer game, there is still a connection.

Around 58% of respondents to the survey said they would recommend online gaming to help alleviate symptoms of stress or mental illness — whether a person had been professionally diagnosed or not.

With the right game and team, online gaming can be seen as a sort of safe medication — with few side effects — that can help troubled minds relax.

Michael Gonzalez is a fourth year at Central Michigan that majors in journalism. He is from Pinckney, Michigan, will be an intern for WCMU and the Alpena News this summer.