The following is a summary of “Escaping through virtual gaming—what is the association with Emotional, social, and Mental Health? A systematic review,” published in the November 2023 issue of Psychiatry by Marques et al.
Virtual gaming is booming, but some studies link this trend to escapism, which can have negative impacts like addiction. Understanding the link between escapism and virtual gaming is crucial. Researchers performed a retrospective study to examine the existing research on the relationship between escapism and virtual gaming engagement.
The study systematically searched PUBMED and SCOPUS databases, with six independent investigators screening articles for relevance. They extracted data related to escapism, emotional/mental health measures, and relevant demographic information for the review’s objectives.
The search resulted in 357 articles, with 36 meeting the inclusion criteria. The findings indicated that Escapist Motivation (EM) was a significant motive for playing virtual games, but this was associated with negative clinical traits and predicted adverse psychological, emotional, and mental health outcomes. EM also correlated with a negative perception of real-world life, non-adaptive real social life, and dysfunctional gaming practices in some cases. EM can have positive effects, such as boosting confidence, determination, a sense of belonging in virtual communities, and representation through avatars. This was positively linked to reducing loneliness in anxious individuals and promoting social activities that support mental health during the pandemic.
The study confirmed the association between escapism in virtual gaming and poor mental health and social behavior, emphasizing the need for further research on the underlying motivations and broader implications.