Let the games begin: Online gaming helps people de-stress amid the pandemic

Online gaming gained popularity during lockdown. A few working professionals and experts share the thrill and joy of gaming experience, which they say taught them life lessons. FPJ writer finds out if gaming is just a distraction or has it actually helped gamers de-stress

Maithili ChakravarthyUpdated: Saturday, August 28, 2021, 06:38 PM IST
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Every afternoon, we see our lockdown-bored family members start a game of Ludo King with their friends. There is some amount of organisation and planning that goes into it — who will be playing at that session and then the steady movement of the dice. That grainy, methodic sound of the dice rolling has become identifiable with almost every other home.

Online gaming became quite a craze with Pokemon Go a few years ago and more recently PUBG. But, gaming took a whole new attraction during the nationwide lockdown.

A recent Microsoft study within the Xbox Research Accessibility Community Feedback Program, a group that consists of players who have some kind of disability, looked into gaming and how it helped people deal with their mental health in the pandemic.

The study showed that almost 84% of the respondents had been positively impacted by gaming in the pandemic, where as 71% of them said that gaming had helped them feel less isolated during the time.

Danish Sinha, founder of Gamestacy, a woman-friendly game developer company, says that gaming provides a distraction and momentary freedom from pain and psychological trauma — both prevalent during the lockdown.

He says online gaming is “a medium to relax, connect with others and feel competent” in times that could have been demoralising.

Sinha says, “Gaming gives a sense of power over the world since gamers experience a feeling of accomplishment. This is extremely helpful for adolescents coping with depression and anxiety as gaming is helping them counteract their self-defeating narratives.”

But, do psychologists agree that it’s all good? Does virtual gaming have negative impact? Clinical psychologist Nidhi Mehta says a balanced amount of gaming is good. “The benefits range from helping improve reflexes to problem solving to helping keep Alzheimer’s at bay depending on the game one is playing.”

However, when gaming is done at the cost of other things, it becomes a problem — kids not doing their homework, or adults neglecting family or friends, says Mehta.

“Gaming cannot be the only coping mechanism (to deal with a situation like the pandemic). One can even unwind and de-stress by doing other activities such as reading books, baking or gardening. The problem arises when people become addicted to gaming,” she says.

Most professionals and experts stress on the need for balance while playing online games. It has benefits when done in a healthy manner and moderately. It has been creating an online community, especially in times when people were physically apart and can’t meet.

For many gamers in the country, one in which people seek tremendous solace from closeness with families and family ties, gaming has helped them rediscover their families to an extent. Before the lockdown, everyone was busy. They didn’t have free time like they have today in a WFH situation.

Chennai-based Haku Shah didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to jump on the Ludo King bandwagon during the lockdown. He started playing with his friends and then started organising Ludo King tournaments for his family.

“There was a huge response to my Ludo tournaments,” says Shah. “Around 150-200 people participated and we were playing 2-3 games a day among extended family in the US, UK, Singapore and it was a lot of fun,” says Shah.

“All have played Ludo as kids. One can play either aggressive or defensive and that teaches you a lot. The beauty of Ludo King is that kids as young as 10 can play and adults over 60 too can enjoy. The best part is connecting with people.”

Mumbai-based account manager at a PR company Sanjay D’Souza (name changed) started gaming in the nights during WFH. The games he indulged in taught him a great deal about time and resource management. “These were skills extremely useful in work life,” he says. The games he played were also a stress buster.

“I enjoy multiplayer games. Gaming gives you joy, excitement and happiness. I tend to play Airlines Manager — Tycoon 2021, Sim Companies and Tycoon Business Game — Empire and Business Simulator. These games educate you on whether the strategy you applied was good and whether it helped you make a profit,” says D’Souza.

Mumbai-based workforce planning manager at a BPO Chotu Vohra is a professional gamer and has won many gaming tournaments. He plays games like Age of Empires and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, before it was banned in India. “Gaming had taken a back seat. But, it picked up again during the lockdown,” says Vohra who like D’Souza played at night after work.

Connecting with friends is the draw for many gamers as they can talk in chat boxes while playing the game.

Vohra says, “Mobile Legends was about teaming up with your friends and beating others up. Gaming also teaches you skills like multi-tasking; it makes you sharp (but does not necessarily smart). It is a great way to pass time especially if you are travelling and need to kill some time.”

Those are a few happy hours of enjoyment and competitive madness for many, provided they do not go overboard.

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