The Use of Computer Games to Recover From Effects of Stress

The watching of television has long been used as a way to rest and relax after a hard day’s work, but there may be an even better way to recuperate from the effects of stress: playing video and computer games.

In 2009, the Journal of Media Psychology published a study that examined the use of video and computer games to recover from the effects of stress.

The study was conducted by Leonard Reinecke of the Hamburg Media School in Germany.

Reinecke used an online questionnaire to survey 1,614 people from ages 12 to 56. The survey was advertised on a number of German video game magazine websites.

“Participants reportedly use video and computer games after exhausting or frustrating situations and for recovery reasons on a regular basis,” said Reinecke.

“Individuals who suffered from more work-related strain and leisure-time stress showed a higher tendency to use games for recovery than participants with lower stress levels.”

But why use computer and video games as a way to recover from the effects of stress?

According to Reinecke, “to recover from job stress or other forms of strain, we need phases of rest that allow us to renew the physical and psychological resources that were utilized in the preceding situation.”

Previous research has identified four major aspects of recovery from stress: psychological detachment from work, relaxation, mastery experiences, and control.

“Their high degree of interactivity makes games a promising activity for psychological detachment,” noted Reinecke, and the ability to adsorb the users attention is “likely to foster feelings of relaxation and to support recovery from stress and strain.”

Retribution Engine ScreenshotComputer and video games also provide their users with a chance to experience the third aspect of recovery from stress, mastery. Having non-work related activities that provide challenging experiences and opportunities to learn new skills is a key dimension of mastery. As Reinecke explains, “in most games, players are either confronted with opponents they have to compete with or with problems and riddles that they have to solve.”

Finally, video and computer games provide users with a sense of control. Unlike other sources of entertainment such as movies or television, the progress of a video or computer game is entirely determined by the actions of the user.


Reinecke, L. (2009). Games and recovery: the use of video and computer games to recuperate from stress and strain. Journal of Media Psychology, Vol 21, No 3: 126-142.