WHY VIDEO GAMES?

Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll.

Shigeru Miyamoto (Creator of The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers)

We recognize that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and emotional distress affect millions of individuals and are a leading cause of isolation, persistent health issues and hardships within our community.

Active duty military personnel face extraordinary pressure in the line of duty. However, after their service is over, we understand another challenge begins for many. It is okay to want to be healthy and seek help, whether facing troubling times, feeling a lack of purpose, or having lost the will to persevere. At Stack Up, we aim to break down the stigmas associated with these issues through the use of gaming.

STUDIES

Community Case Study: Stack Up’s Overwatch Program, an Online Suicide Prevention and Peer Support Program for Video Gamers

Colder Carras M, Bergendahl M and Labrique AB (2021) Community Case Study: Stack Up’s Overwatch Program, an Online Suicide Prevention and Peer Support Program for Video Gamers. Front. Psychol. 12:575224

Traditional mental health services are often not enough to meet the needs of people at risk for suicide, especially in populations where help-seeking is stigmatized. Stack Up, a non-profit veteran organization whose goal is to use video games to bring veterans together, recognized a need in its gaming-focused online community and created the Overwatch Program. This suicide prevention and crisis intervention program is delivered entirely through the Internet by trained community members through Discord text and voice chat. By combining aspects of virtual gaming communities, veteran mental health, and community-based peer support, this program provides an innovative format for implementing crisis intervention and mental health support programs. We describe here the context and features of the program, an ongoing evaluation project, and lessons learned.



Gaming well: links between video games and flourishing mental health

Jones CM, Scholes L, Johnson D, Katsikitis M and Carras MC (2014) Gaming well: links between video games and flourishing mental health. Front. Psychol. 5:260

This paper is a review of the state of play of research linking video gaming and flourishing, and explores the role of video games and technology to improve mental health and well-being. Its purpose is to develop understandings about the positive intersection of gaming and well-being, to document evidence regarding links between video games and positive mental health, and to provide guidelines for use by other researchers as they design and use tools and games to improve mental health and well-being. Using Huppert’s (Huppert and So, 2013) proposition that to flourish is more than the absence of mental disorder but rather a combination of feeling good and functioning effectively, resulting in high levels of mental well-being, and Seligman’s (Seligman, 2011) PERMA theory of well-being, the paper identifies strengths in existing games that generate positive affect, positive functioning, and positive social functioning, contributing to, and supporting mental health and well-being.

More than Just a Game? Combat-Themed Gaming Among Recent Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Luther Elliott, Andrew Golub, Matthew Price, and Alexander Bennett Games for Health Journal 2015 4:4, 271-277

This article examines recent combat veterans’ experiences of “first-person shooter” (FPS) gaming and its relationship to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Current PTSD treatment approaches increasingly use virtual reality (VR) technologies, which have many similarities with FPS games. To explore these similarities, this article presents six case studies from recently separated veterans in New York City who reported both current PTSD symptoms and regular use of combat-themed FPS games. In open-ended interviews, participants discussed a range of benefits as well as the importance of regulating use and avoiding particular contextual dimensions of gaming to maintain healthy gaming habits. Findings demonstrate the need for more comprehensive study and dissemination of best-practices information about FPS gaming in the context of combat-related PTSD symptomatology.

“Videogames Saved My Life”: Everyday Resistance and Ludic Recovery among US Military Veterans

Aggie Hirst, International Political Sociology, olab018

While the explosion of videogames as a global entertainment medium has been explored in International Relations (IR) and associated fields in some detail in recent years, the proliferation of games in military settings remains under-researched. This paper examines the uses to which US military veterans put videogames following service, showing that they play an important role in healing and rehabilitation processes through community building, therapeutic relief, and suicide prevention. 

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The VA found that there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016. Veterans accounted for 14 percent of all suicides in the United States in 2016, yet veterans comprise just 8 percent of the population.

STATISTICS

The average gamer is 34 years old. 

Gamers age 18 or older represent more than 70 percent of the video game-playing population.

60 percent of Americans play video games daily. 

Source: ESA 2018 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

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                64% 

of US households own a device that they use to play video games.

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                55% 

of the most frequent gamers say that video games help connect them with their friends.

This is an essential part of why Stack Up does what it does: making connections and bridging the gap between civilians and veterans through gaming. You can be in any part of the world and connect with an old service buddy and play games together.

Source: ESA 2018 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

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                50% 

used video games to cope with challenges associated with their military service.

In an exploratory study of active duty U.S. military and veteran gamers, it was found that almost half of the participants used video games to cope with challenges associated with their military service. Their coping mechanisms included escapism, managing self-diagnosed physical and/or psychological ailments, seeking social support (particularly through massively multiplayer online games) and connecting with civilian life.

Source: WVU – Video games offer active military and veterans coping mechanism