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Games as Therapy

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Therapy

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Life is hard for many people and we suffer emotional traumas and blockages at all stages. Therapy seeks to release the stored tensions of such troubles and set us on a healthier course.

Rather than the more expensive option of visiting a qualified therapist, games can be used as a way of releasing tensions and exploring oneself. When you show courage in the game you may be encouraged in the real world. When you are fighting virtual dragons you can simultaneously be fighting the dragons of your past. When characters die, you can release the pent-up grief of personal losses.

Physical games also provide release and there is nothing quite like the crunch and exertion of contact sport or the exhaustion of running or racket sports.

Example

A teenager with a troubled family plays video adventure games where there is pure motive, clear good and evil and where they can triumph over the bad people. By focusing their frustrations within the game, they find it easier to handle family conflicts without being drawn into angry exchange.

A person plays chess both to get away from life and also as a paradoxical period of quiet contemplation where they can mull over personal issues and work out what they can do about them.

A therapist uses games to help clients access a child state from which they can address old traumatic issues in a safe place.

Discussion

Games largely require focus which, in itself, is a helpful escape from real-world troubles. Beyond this, the game itself can be a metaphor for life into which the player can project themself. In this safe and separate context they can both let out inner tensions and also explore other ways of being.

This can be done deliberately, although games often have a cathartic effect without being consciously chosen for this property. Perhaps this is one reason why there are so many robust and physical games.

Caveat: This is not a recommendation to replace therapy with gaming. If you are troubled, find professional help first.

See also

Coaching

 

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