A Web Series All About How Video Games Can Improve Mental Health

A Web Series All About How Video Games Can Improve Mental Health
Image: Checkpoint

Launching today, the Checkpoint Series is a Kickstarter project aiming to create a series of videos highlighting all the ways video games can help us out mentally.

The project is aiming to raise $55,000 for 16 episodes that will use the real stories of game development and media personalities, as well as mental health professionals, to deliver evidence-based advice. The Kickstarter is an extension of Checkpoint, a program led by Dr Jennifer Hazel, who has been researching and speaking about mental health in video games for two years.

The intersection between mental health and gaming is a known synergy. While of course gaming is enjoyed by all kinds of people, this brand of escapism also attracts people who are having a tough time. I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it, and video games can certainly help one cope. That’s the connection Season 1 wants to explore.

Josh Scherr, writer on the Uncharted series, suffered from a “nasty panic disorder”, and said of the project, “Feelings of shame, fear, and helplessness are all too common among those suffering from mental health issues; often, it makes taking that first step towards seeking help incredibly difficult. Easy to access resources, such as this video series, are often invaluable in helping people get past that initial hurdle, and as such, can be life-changing (if not outright life-saving).”

Season 2 is a little more varied, but what I’m most interested in is the “A look at the research” section:

From time to time, it’s been very handy as a journalist to point to hard data when people make assumptions about the stereotypical gamer. The IGEA has been invaluable in that regard, allowing us to definitively say that the average age of the Australian gamer is over 30, around 47% of those are women, and more than 90% of Australian homes have a gaming device in the house.

It’s no different when talking about the good that games can do — even games that weren’t specifically made with social good in mind. I’m fond of quoting studies that show how immersive video games can enormously reduce pain, also reducing addictive pain medication needed for those dealing with intensely painful conditions such as burn injuries. Most recently, I visited the Netherlands where they were doing something very similar. And of course, we’ve already covered how another locally made game is plugging the gap in childrens’ hearing tests.

The key here is hard data and expert knowledge, and that’s what this project is about. There are plenty of examples of games doing good, but the above examples are all medical, with most of the psychological stories that I’m aware of being anecdotal (Dr Hazel could probably point me towards a few proper studies). It’ll be good to have more ammunition when evangelising the psychological benefits of games.

When funded, the project aims to start releasing videos in December of this year. You can look at the project here, or find out more about Checkpoint here.