Bored and lonely? Researcher Says Online Games Can Help Us Socialize Safely During Pandemic

Connecting with others through online games can help combat the stress and social isolation of the pandemic, and digital games researcher Regan Mandryk says you don’t have to be a gamer to play. enjoy.

“When we talk about play, there’s a whole range of activities you can do. People tend to have this stereotypical idea of ​​a 16-year-old boy playing Call of Duty for 12 hours straight in the basement, and that’s not really what gaming is,” said Mandryk, a computer science professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Spark host Nora Young.

“You can really sign up on your smartphone, or similar, and see a lot of benefits.”

regan quotes Among usan online multiplayer game that has become extremely popular during the pandemic, as an example of an activity people can do together without any gaming experience.

“It’s just really well designed and it allows people to connect with each other in a time when it’s really hard to connect with others.”

Demand for video games and consoles skyrocketed in the spring as people searched for ways to be entertained during the first wave of shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19.

Online games can provide a greater sense of control over our surroundings and oneness with others, which helps us cope with stressful times in our lives, Mandryk says. And games offer unique advantages over other, more passive forms of entertainment.

“A lot of the traditional ways we recover from stress – you think of watching a movie or reading a book – are really good for psychological detachment and relaxation. But they don’t really give us the opportunity to experience mastery. or control it.”

She says the game also provides an accessible and entertaining alternative to other types of online communication that has replaced many face-to-face contacts during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people go through this Zoom fatigue situation, where they don’t want to sit in front of the computer, even if it’s to talk and have a nice conversation with someone who isn’t physically co-present with them,” Mandryk said.

Regan Mandrk, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, says gambling can help reduce stress and improve mental health. (Martin Lipman/NSERC)

A recent study by Angus Reid found that the number of Canadians who report experiencing both loneliness and social isolation rose to 33%, a 10% increase from the previous year. Respondents in the same study said they used technology to stay connected, but most said this type of socializing was simply “better than nothing”.

Mandryk says games can provide a more universally accessible way to connect with others. “When we’re talking about more traditional ways of interacting with each other, like video chatting, those kinds of things work better for certain types of people,” she said.

“The work we have done has shown that one of the great advantages of [multiplayer] games…is that they create a kind of equivalence for people, no matter how outgoing you are, how nice you are, how much you trust other people.”

While adults may find it easier to connect through video conferencing and phone calls, the same is not true for children, who connect with each other through play. Mandryk says games online can be especially beneficial for children as a way to stay social at a time when contact with peers is limited due to pandemic-related public health restrictions.

“When you see children playing Minecraft or Roblox or Fortnite, any of these types of games, they interact with each other around a central idea of ​​play and games. And it allows them to communicate with each other in a way that’s familiar to them, even if they can’t go to the park and kick a ball.”

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