Escaping to a virtual world
Video games and their impact on mental health has long been a topic of discussion in the media, often holding a focus on the negative connotations lead by shocking tabloid headlines. However, a recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford has found that video games can have a positive effect on mental health. Specifically, whilst increased time spent playing games had a slightly positive effect on a person’s mental health, the most important aspect was the enjoyment and experience of the games. So, as simple as it sounds, if you aren’t having fun playing a game it is a good idea to stop and take a break or do something else.
Games for a quick distraction
Sometimes at a point of stress, we just need that quick distraction. A sudoku or crossword can help to refocus the brain and calm those restless thoughts. Why not try these free browser based games – you won’t need to download anything and they are very quick to learn!
It is quite easy to become fixated on this number puzzle game – perfect for when you don’t want to think about anything else. The goal is to match numbered tiles together, merging them to their total. Go as high as you can and try to reach 2048 on one of your tiles. This can be played on your computer, tablet or phone and is great for challenging friends and family to beat your score!
With lockdown still in force it can feel like a vacation is out of reach, but this fun browser game can fix that travel itch! You will see a video from a random location in the world and using clues from street signs to buildings you then guess the location by placing a pin on a world map. Points are awarded for how close you are to the correct GPS coordinate. Pick from places that are limited by country or challenge yourself to guess places across the entire world!
Games to reconnect with friends
For many, the skype and zoom calls that have filled lockdown life have been a welcome reprieve from the day to day. To change things up, why not turn some of those calls into a ‘party games night’. The added social interaction, friendly competition and overall fun can really boost our wellbeing.
The equivalent to a stack of board games. Requiring one person to own the game(s) and other players to either be watching the same screen or stream it across zoom/skype (they have a handy guide here). You use your own phone/tablet/computer as a gamepad to participate just by entering a code on their website. Games include: Fibbage (a huge fan favourite) where the object is to answer the prompt with a lie that will fool your fellow competitors before trying to guess the real answer from all of the options; Drawful – think Pictionary but brought into the 21st Century; to You Don’t Know Jack – the typical quiz show. All hosted by a range of funny and charismatic voice actors – though be sure to enable “Family-friendly” mode if you are playing with a more sensitive audience.
Ever watched one of those ‘Wipeout’ or ‘Ninja Warrior’ game shows and thought “that looks fun…” before proceeding to think better of it? Well here’s the game that allows you to play through those levels from the comfort of your own home. Compete against friends and other players through a series of obstacle courses and events to crown yourself champion. Equal measures of fun and frustrating but a great laugh to spend with friends and family and suitable for all ages.
Work together as a team to create dishes in a busy kitchen and send them to the pass before time runs out. A fantastic game for all ages that promotes communication and engagement whilst being bright, fun and easy to get into. Once you’ve mastered working as a team, throw yourself into the more challenging levels which, for some reason, can include throwing ingredients and trying to cook across 2 moving trucks!
Games to release your creativity
Exploring mental health through creativity from poetry to art has been a long understood and beneficial practice. For some of us however, we can connect more with Pacman than Picasso and need something to express our creativity in a digital space. These games let you explore your creativity whilst also creating things to connect with that relate to those in the real world.
Zebras, monkeys, penguins. For animal lovers, that is probably all I need to say about this game. For the rest, explore your creativity by building your dream zoo with control over everything from the smallest details like the plants, information signs and you can even create your own structures timber by timber! The animals are about as realistic as you will get in a virtual world and should tide you over until the real zoos reopen. The perfect game for when you just need that moment to unwind and appreciate nature when it’s not available to you outside.
The findings of the Oxford University study did show that if you aren’t having your psychological needs met in the ‘real world’ then you may feel a negative impact on your wellbeing from playing games. So to give yourself the best experience, make sure to get plenty of sleep (why not check out this article for the benefits and some tips on getting a good night’s rest) and practice self-care.