Avoid a Game Over: Level Up Your Stress Relief Skills through Gaming | Nicholas D. Rivers

Written by Nicholas D. Rivers of Florida Atlantic University.

It is clear that student affairs is a stressful profession. The stress comes from a variety of sources, including student issues, supervisory concerns, lack of time, pressure to retain students, and rapidly decreasing budgets. The good news is that there are many ways to lower stress levels, including yoga, physical exercise, reading, listening to music, spending time in nature, talking with friends, and more. However, my favorite way to lower my stress levels is to play video games and I am not the only one playing video games: “In the United States alone, an estimated 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls play video games with 97 percent playing at least one hour per day” (Vitelli, p.1 2014). That is a lot of gaming! There are some downsides to playing video games, including rude online players, difficult learning curves, high prices, as well as the idea of playing video games becoming “an addiction” (Wood, 2008). But there are benefits associated with playing video games, including cognitive development, improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills, acquiring problem solving skills, and more. The purpose of this article is to share types of video games and the benefits associated with each type of game. Ready, Player One?

Role Playing Games

Role Playing Games Examples: The Sims, Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Persona

Role playing games are great to help escape some of the stress of reality. These games allow you to walk in another person’s shoes by creating and embodying a unique character. Many of these games require using decision-making, interpersonal, and conversational skills to perform better in the game; all of which are important skills for student affairs professionals (Gallagher, 2013). One of my favorite role playing games is the Mass Effect series due to its rich storyline, attention to character development, and complete control of decisions both personal and overarching in the story. It feels like reading a novel, watching a movie, and living in a fantasy/sci-fi world all at once. These games are all about choices and letting the player have control of what is going on. If it feels like things are hectic in life, grab a controller and try out one of the games listed above!

Puzzle Games

Puzzle Games Examples: Candy Crush Saga, Portal, Tetris, Bejeweled, Professor Layton

Puzzle games probably have the most daily players due to their accessibility, quick gameplay, and fun factor. These games have some amazing benefits including “increased mental flexibility [and] improved ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously” (Gray, 2015, p. 1). These are typically the easiest and cheapest games to get into because most can be download to your cell phone. If you need a break from solving problems, try playing a few rounds of Tetris!

Competitive Games

Competitive Games Examples: Call of Duty, Halo, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, FIFA

While competitive games are some of the most popular in the “hardcore” gaming scene, there are both positives and negatives associated with them. The benefits of these games are that they are fun, fast, and allow people to interact with friends and family across the globe! These games focus on working together as a team and bringing out the strengths of each player. The negatives of these types of games is that these games can get very intense very fast and players can flip from having a great time to “going full tilt” at any moment. When looking to get some satisfaction from competing with a group of friends, check these games out, but also be wary of keeping emotions in check and not taking the competition too personally.

 Tips and Tricks

These are only some of the games available to help relieve stress. Not sure where to start? Check out the classics like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Also, feel free to reach out to others for game recommendations. See if you can find a group to join that also enjoys gaming, but be intentional about limiting the time spent on video games.


In the stressful world of student affairs, playing video games can be a great way to relieve stress and to build relationships with others. Remember to watch out for the difficulties that may come along with gaming and that at the end of the day, they are just that: games! Do not take them too seriously and just have fun!




Gallagher, D. (2013, March 10). 7 health benefits of playing video games. Retrieved from


Gray, P. (2015, February 20). Cognitive benefits of playing video games. Retrieved from


Vitelli, R. (2014, February 10). Are there benefits in playing video games? Retrieved from


Wood, R. T. A. (2008). Problems with the concept of video game “addiction:” Some case

study examples. Retrieved from         http://dh101.humanities.ucla.edu/DH101Fall12Lab4/archive/files/03cf69085504b44dc8b43f81b8462198.pdf


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