Psychotherapist Kriss debuts with an unusual case for the benefits of playing video games.
“Games,” writes the author, “are here and growing; they are a way for us to learn more about who we are or make contact with parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed.” A gamer from the age of 5 and now the go-to guy for colleagues who don’t know how to help “gamer kids,” the New York–based author draws on personal and patient experiences to explore the “nuance and complexity” of video games. “Not all games are violent, or sexualized,” writes Kriss, nor is there scientific agreement about whether they are addictive, as societal stigma would have it. For many of his patients, games are a way to explore parts of themselves they “feel harder to access in the physical world.” One client, an aspiring model assaulted by a photographer, turned herself into an ugly, unappealing man in the post-apocalyptic game “Fallout 4”; another, a 21-year-old man living a chaotic family life, relished the “knowable” world of “Mass Effect.” Others found “new ways to connect, self-reflect, and feel known,” even entering pathways to future growth. Such patients discover a “sense of safety” in games, a protected space where they can “explore unconscious fears and desires.” The author’s own experiences playing “Silent Hill 2,” a game of psychological horror, helped him, at age 14, deal with a friend’s death. He discusses conflicting research findings on games addiction. He prefers to call the latter “compulsive play,” in which the individual is not “beholden to an ‘addictive’ game but is in fact in control of and responsible for herself and her behavior and is therefore free to change.” He stresses that “we are all entitled to play. We need to play in order to fully discover and live as ourselves.”
A thoughtful contribution to an ongoing debate that would have benefited from a more thorough look at harmful effects.