While more mainstream video games are under fire for causing depression, a new study at East Carolina University finds that playing casual puzzle games is an effective way to combat clinical depression and anxiety. Guess who underwrote the study?
East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic have spent the past year putting 60 test subjects meeting the criteria for clinical depression through a grueling series of PopCap-brand casual puzzle games. Using technologies with long, important-sounding names like psychophysiology and biochemical and psychological measurements, the study found that subjects in the video game group experienced an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57 percent.
The study was underwritten by PopCap Games, one of the world's leading casual game publishers.
Subjects that played Bejeweled 2, Bookworm Adventures, and Peggle - all PopCap games, of course - also experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and improvement to all aspects of mood.
The graph below shows how all members of the video game test group shifted into the 'mild symptoms' group after playing.
In a press release accompanying this news, the study's author actually suggested that casual games were so effective at treating depression they could potentially be used to replace common treatment options, including medication.
"The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression" stated Dr. Carmen Russoniello, Director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU and the professor who oversaw the study (as well as previous studies involving the same games' effects on stress levels). "In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication."
I don't know how far I'd trust a study heralding the positive benefits of casual gaming that's been underwritten by one of the world's top publishers of casual games, but the results, if accurate, are quite impressive. We've seen video games used as therapy for physical ailments. Why not the mental ones?