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University of Saskatchewan research shows video games can improve mental well-being

USask research shows video games can improve mental well-being
WATCH: Researchers at USask are exploring human and computer interactions.

Staying connected with friends and family is one of many ways to keep your mental health in check during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some have been staying connected in the virtual world. Video games released in recent months, like Animal Crossing for the Nintendo Switch, have been selling fast.

READ MORE: People line up outside downtown Toronto EB Games store amid coronavirus outbreak

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) computer science department are exploring human and computer interactions. They’ve found video games can help with mental well-being.

USask computer science professor Regan Mandryk started research in this area seeing how video games can motivate people to exercise. She quickly realized they do more than improve motivation.

“They help us recover from acute stressors and they do this by forming three things,” Mandryk explains.

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“Psychological detachment from what’s going on around us, relaxation and a sense of mastery over challenges that are offered to us and a sense of exerting control over our environment.”

READ MORE: What you need to know as Saskatchewan starts first phase of reopen plan

The gaming community has been around well before the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Next Level Game Exchange has been operating in Saskatoon for 14 years. Some who grew up going to the store now take their own children.

The love of gaming is shared across different generations for a couple of reasons.

“The’re great for providing an escape, especially with what everybody’s dealing with right now,” Next Level Game Exchange owner Anthony Foster said.

“They’re a great way to be social with your friends while still staying socially distant from each other.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan blackjack dealer fired, copper theft in Crown losses report

Mandryk adds doing an activity with friends and family brings a sense of normalcy because our social interactions usually aren’t just talking face-to-face. We typically talk while doing things like sports, or while going out for a drink or meal.

“Video games allow kind of a central component around which you can have activities together and communicate about those activities and then about other things as well,” Mandryk said.

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Mental health week through the COVID-19 pandemic
Mental health week through the COVID-19 pandemic

While playing video games can have positive benefits, it’s important to find balance.

“Problematic gameplay could be happening, but what I would suggest is that games aren’t really the problem,” Mandryk explains.

“When we see problematic gameplay, it’s people turning to the games solely when they should be looking to a range of activities. Exercise, getting fresh air, getting their work done — when people aren’t doing these things, that’s problematic gameplay.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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