Video games as self-care

Principal Investigator: Dr Matthew Spokes (York St John University)

Co-Investigators: Dr Jack Denham (York St John University),  Dr Jo Bell (University of Hull), Matt Coward-Gibbs (University of York), Dr Julie Ellis (University of Huddersfield)

In the context of COVID-19, more young people are staying at home, socialising at home, learning at home, and playing video games. They’re managing a loss of normality, a loss of social connections, a loss of their ‘youth’, and the loss of loved ones. They’re dealing with grief, bereavement, anxiety of the threat of loss, and their own new-found responsibility for their elder or vulnerable relatives’ mortality.

Video games can provide players with a sense of achievement, the ability to build or reside in immersive, custom worlds, tell and experience detailed stories, interact with peers in a socially distanced way, or just be a welcome distraction. We explore the role of video games as therapeutic, social, and educational tools for coping, using the mixed-method approach of a qualitative/quantitative survey and Interactive Elicitation, a ‘play interview where participants interact with games and discuss their use.

As well as academic outcomes, this project yields a toolkit for industry producers looking at changes and enhancements to content design emerging from COVID-19, ways to better understand audiences and users, and ways to maximise reach of digital and creative content. Additionally, it speaks to educators – providing a framework to better utilise interactive games in communicating with young or anxious audiences.

This project is funded through SIGN’s Collaborative Research Grants scheme.

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