Video Game Psychology: A New Emerging Field

Psychology is taking video games into a whole new direction and along with positive reinforcements, behavioral modification, affection, and engaging simulations, video games are changing the way we play games. This new area of social science is being referred to as Video Game Psychology; a new and emerging mix that takes what used to be solely for entertainment purposes into a life-altering and rehabilitating phenomenon.  We will take a look at research in this new and emerging field and witness the impact and its future possibilities.

Situational Judgment Tests as RPGs

What if in job interviews you are asked to play a game and the results determine whether you get the job or not? In an article by author and Ph.D. psychologist Jamie Madigan, he discusses the use of an RPG job application that decides if a person’s abilities are needed for the success in the job. The test takers are presented with a situation, given relevant facts and rules, and are asked to react and solve the issue using appropriate judgment calls. Dr. Madigan believes the choices of an applicant can tell the preferences and priorities of the individual when using tactical skills. He believes that because most interviews provide non-accurate information as the interviewee tends to behave in ways the interviewer favors, video games provide more accurate, true-to-the-character, measure of analysis as RPGs have a tendency to deeply immerse players into the game. This engages them in a “psychological flow” in which they are “more likely to forget about their surroundings and forget (or at least downplay) the fact that they are playing a video game”.1


A good teacher makes the lesson fun and engaging; a great teacher makes homework and class work a video game. Teacher and visionary Ben Bertoli decided to build a MMO called ClassRealm, which basically is an experience point system that rewards kids for studying and helping classmates. Students create a character and “class” or race as their avatar in the game. Bertoli’s idea of gamifying education through routine classroom supervision system built on RPG’s themes specifies goals and achievements for students and the class to accomplish and helps teachers and parents track their progress. The students earn achievements and experience through completing tests, reading extra books, or helping classmates. Parents can also create personal side quests for their kids to complete.

Kids with Cerebral Palsy May Benefit from Video Game Play

Research is looking into motion gaming as an opportunity for children with impaired motor skills to get their fair share of fun and improve their physical abilities. Focusing on the Wii, doctors use “target therapy” to focus on specific joints or movements on children who have trouble with their motor abilities. Some games such as  Wii: Bowling, Tennis, Boxing, as well as Dance Dance Revolution are some games specified in helping children with CP. “Wii boxing, or similar games, may be an effective motivational environment for encouraging increased movement speed of the hemiplegic limb, in addition to the bilateral use of the limbs, because in-game success is strongly linked to these two metrics,” says lead investigator Elaine Biddiss, PhD, of Toronto’s Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and the University of Toronto, Canada.

Within the research, it is concluded that children with CP attained moderate levels of physical activity during average play. These games encouraged repetitive movements while providing feedback which promoted change. Physical rehabilitation within the virtual world encourages children with CP to be physically active and practice motor activities without strain and with generous amounts of enjoyment.

Video Games Can Help Teens Combat Depression

A New Zealand study is using video games to help alleviate depression using a game called SPARX; Smart Positive Active Realistic X-Factor Thoughts. The game revolves around the player to shoot GNATS; Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts, which turn into SPARX. The game uses a great deal of allegory to enforce positivity in the players mind. The study took 187 teens with mild to moderate levels of depression and had them either play the game or receive traditional treatment administered by trained counselors. The results showed the game was more effective than traditional forms of talk therapy. Players that played SPARX, had anxiety and depression reduced 44% compared to the 20% of traditional talk therapy. With this breakthrough, therapy can be easier and accessible and patients are more likely to get treated.

Video Games in Health Care: Closing the Gap

Psychologist Pamela M. Kato recently wrote a study on the use of commercial games to improve health and surgical training for doctors. The tailor-made game will be used to educate and train patients to adhere to treatment as well as medical students and doctors to improve their bedside manner and surgical technique. Kato states the majority of patients do not comply with their treatments regimens and the leading cause of death in the U.S. is medical errors.  It is with these facts in mind that video games can be used as an innovative tool that can address psychological and behavioral barriers to optimize healthcare. Using mechanisms of motivation found in video games that help players endure with aversive symptoms and repetition are key methods to promote learning.

What are your thoughts on how psychology and science are used to target today’s medical issues through video games? Let us know at Check out more article on Video Game Psychology by clicking the tab menu.

Narz is Founder and Owner of Girl Gamer, writer at Gametyrant, and Lead Video Game Columnist at Knickerbocker Ledger.

[1] The Psychology of Video Games: Situational Judgment Tests as RPGS; PhD Jamie Magidan;


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