I’ll just say it: Video games are fantastic for our mental health. I’ll also say that as a gamer, much like the rest of you, I adore playing video games. Obviously I’m going to be a little biased. 

Long gone are the days of games solely existing in arcades. They have become an essential form of entertainment in our society. Over 70% of gamers own consoles, and common gaming systems like the PlayStation and Xbox help promote more game time by not only housing access to, y’know, video games, but to all of our major streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu. Consoles have become the centerpiece of the living room, and with more than 169 million gaming adults in the US… that’s a lot of game time collected. 

So obviously people started looking at the way video games affect us mentally, especially as the pandemic forced us into finding new ways to entertain ourselves and find social connections. 

Ritual Motion’s 2021 Win Well Health Survey collected essential data from our community to discover that the influence of video games in a world of COVID has been ultimately positive. When asked how gaming tends to affect their moods, over 70% reported that gaming helps boost their mental state. To some, not only was it a fantastic mental surge; gaming also helped bump up energy levels. 44% claimed that games helped enhance energy while only 6.7% experienced a drop. 

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Energy, both physical and mental, has experienced some strange hurdles during the pandemic. With the majority of us embracing isolation, we’ve all experienced changes in our diets, exercise levels, and productivity. In a society that had so suddenly become unstable, gaming has quickly become an emotional anchor. 44.8% of respondents revealed that they spent more time gaming due to the pandemic. While jumping into your favorite RPG is a fantastic way to escape, the need for social connectivity has pushed more people into online multiplayer games. 

23.4% of people have started gaming online more with others, with 32.6% becoming more interested in the gaming community as a whole. 

Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons became vital social media tools in the midst of the pandemic, but what about competitive games like Call of Duty? With more people jumping onto the mic, the issue of in-game toxicity becomes paramount. 40% of gamers revealed that they had more positive experiences than negative ones. However, this isn’t always the case. 

Games like Valorant are plagued with toxic voice chats, and could chase away players. The same can be said for massively popular titles like League of Legends. The issue has become so grave that Riot Games has planned to start recording in-game voice communication in Valorant in order to evaluate toxic behavior. Opting out of the moderation will lock the ability to voice chat.

“Our goal — our full-on endeavor — is not just to reduce toxicity, but to bring players together as well,” Riot Games Producer Sara Dadafshar told Polygon. “Ultimately, it makes sense that we’re doing this. I hope that players will see that and understand we can’t moderate without moderating. I hope [players] see the bigger picture of it all.”

With 39% of survey takers claiming a mixture of positive and negative experiences, and 7% experiencing more negative than positive moments, toxicity is still a major barrier. 63.6% of gamers try to ignore toxicity in voice chat; however, over 27% mute everyone to avoid negative behaviors altogether. 

Ultimately, gamers had a positive outlook on gaming, and the pain points are recognized and being fought against. In a world of lockdowns, video games have become the ultimate social media platform—through both active gameplay and spectatorship—and for a lot of us, they have been exactly what we’ve needed.