Gaming keeps me sane

By Meredith Pratt | Assistant News Editor

Growing up with a younger brother meant that many early mornings and late nights were spent playing video games together. Sure, some tears of frustration may have been shed over Super Smash Bros. and Lego Star Wars, but there was no doubt that I was hooked on gaming.

Although I retired my Nintendo DS a long time ago, I was recently gifted a Nintendo Switch. I was also reunited with one of my favorite childhood games: Animal Crossing.

I honestly don’t know what I would have done during 2020 if I didn’t have that game. I spent several months during quarantine building my island and re-discovering my love of gaming. A couple of my friends play Animal Crossing: New Horizons as well, and it became a way we could stay in touch despite being apart for months on end.

Now that school is back in full swing, I admittedly don’t have as much free time. I’m not able to play video games very regularly, but I do have some apps on my phone that I have grown to enjoy. Playing games is my way to unwind without feeling totally lazy, because, unlike watching television, it requires you to do a bit more thinking.

One of my favorite apps to play in my downtime is Pocket Planes. I currently have airports established in Barcelona, Istanbul, Cape Town and various other cities across the globe that I fly between. I am someone that loves (and misses) traveling internationally, and this game is the closest I’ve been to an airport in over a year!

The New York Times app also has several games I play in my spare time. Every morning, there is a new mini crossword, spelling game and several others that require more brainpower than the average app. It really is something I look forward to doing each day.

I’m also not embarrassed to say that I enjoy playing Candy Crush. I feel like it genuinely helps me de-stress. The game actually markets itself a relaxation tool, with slogans such as “Swipe. Match. Relax,” “Chill and unwind” and “Escape the stress of today.”

So… can video games actually have a positive effect on people?

A recent article explored several benefits of playing video games. It stated that gaming can “help develop cognitive skills and improve memory and spatial awareness.”

There was also a study conducted in 2020 by Oxford University on the effects of playing video games on mental health. The study, which focused on two games, one being Animal Crossing: New Horizons, found that the “amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being.”

“If you play Animal Crossing for four hours a day, every single day, you’re likely to say you feel significantly happier than someone who doesn’t,” Andrew Przybylski, the professor who led the study, said. Although, he noted, “that doesn’t mean Animal Crossing by itself makes you happy.”

These results didn’t surprise me. There’s a reason I enjoy playing games, even after a long day. It’s fun for me, and I believe it helps reduce my level of stress.

Since college can be a stressful time, I encourage you to find something, whether it’s playing video games, reading a book or going on a walk, that brings you joy and helps you relax. Taking the time to look after your mental health is worth it, I promise.