Casual games help reduce stress

Casual games help reduce stress

Five minutes a day keeps the ulcers away

Playing casual games for just five minutes a day can help lower stress levels by reducing blood pressure, slowing breathing and lowering the heart rate, new research claims.

Games publisher PopCap Games and the Stress Management Society devised the PopCap Stress Test to determine the stress levels of consumers playing PopCap games.

As part of the study, PopCap launched a PopCap A Day campaign in the UK, fronted by pop star Natasha Hamilton, encouraging people to test their stress levels and get tips and tricks on how best to manage it in their daily lives.

The survey found that parents and grandparents are generally positive about casual video games, and all family gamers allow their children and grandchildren to play casual video games.

Children aged nine and under reported better hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, better learning skills such as pattern recognition and spelling, improved cognitive ability and positive affirmation and confidence building.

Different advantages were seen in kids aged 10 and older, however. Stress relief and relaxation were the clearest benefit, followed by hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity and learning.

"The cognitive benefits of playing casual computer games (e.g. concentration, focusing, decision-making) are present in some form for children of all ages," explained Dr Carl Arinoldo, a psychologist and expert on parent-child relationships.

"But the stress-management benefits understandably become more significant as a child ages towards and through adolescence.

"From school pressures to puberty, tweens and teens certainly experience more stress on average than younger children.

"Playing casual computer games can be a good choice for parents to encourage as part of their children's stress-management strategies."

The frequency and duration of gameplay also changed across different age groups, according to the study.

Some 15 per cent of children aged eight or younger play three times a week or more, compared with 20 per cent of eight to 10 year-olds, 30 per cent of 11 to 13 year-olds and 32 per cent of 14 to 17 year-olds.

Similarly, most children play only for short periods. Nearly 84 per cent of children aged eight or younger, 76 per cent of eight to 10 year-olds, 63 per cent of 11 to 13 year-olds and 58 per cent of those 14 years or older cap casual gameplay sessions at an hour or less.

PopCap reckons this increase is probably down to longer attention spans, later bedtimes and more autonomy.

As mainstream game sessions often last several hours, it seems likely that this 'moderation' is a primary reason that parents appear to favour casual games.

Some 63 per cent of casual gaming parents and grandparents say that their kids play for four hours or less a week.