GREENVILLE, N.C. and SEATTLE, April 28 East CarolinaUniversity's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies today revealed theresults of a six-month long, randomized, controlled study that measured thestress-relieving and other mood-lifting effects of so-called "casual" videogames. The three puzzle and word games used in the study, Bejeweled(R) 2,Peggle(TM) and Bookworm(TM) Adventures, are all made by PopCap Games, theleading developer and publisher of casual video games. (PopCap underwrote thestudy and provided copies of the games for research purposes.) The hypotheseswere tested using state-of-the-art technologies and methodologies to measureheart-rate variability (HRV), electroencephalography (EEG) and subjects' moodstates pre- and post-activity (POMS). The study yielded significant findingsin several areas while identifying potential therapeutic applications ofcasual games as a means of addressing serious mental and physical disorders.Due to the significance of the findings and their implications in healthpromotion, disease prevention and treatment, East Carolina University'sPsychophysiology Lab is planning to start clinical trials in the fall todetermine the efficacy of these games and their prescriptive parameters.
In all cases, the changes in stress levels and mood were measured incomparison to a control group that experienced a Web-based activity similar inphysical and mental nature to the game-playing groups. Full results of thestudy will be presented at the Games for Health Conference in Baltimore,Maryland on May 8, 2008 by the director of the study, Dr. Carmen Russoniello,associate professor of recreational therapy and director of thePsychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU's College of Health andHuman Performance. The study results will also be published in a peer-reviewedjournal later this year. High-level findings of the study are provided below.Additional data, including detailed charts, can be found athttp://www.edu.ecu/biofeedback.
"I've conducted many clinical studies in the area of recreational therapyin the past, but this was the first one seeking to determine the potentialtherapeutic value of video games," stated Dr. Russoniello. "The results ofthis study are impressive and intriguing, given the extent of the effects ofthe games on subjects' stress levels and overall mood. When coupled with thevery high degree of confidence we have in those results based on themethodology and technologies used, I believe there is a wide range oftherapeutic applications of casual games in mood-related disorders such asdepression and in stress-related disorders including diabetes andcardiovascular disease. Granted, this study was a first step and much moreneeds to be done before video games can be prescribed to treat medicalconditions. However, these exciting results confirm anecdotal evidence thatpeople are playing casual video games to improve their mood and decrease theirstress, and herald casual games' potential in health promotion, diseaseprevention, and treatment of stress- and mood-related disorders."
With respect to stress relief, measured primarily through HRV whichcaptures sympathetic (fight or flight) and para-sympathetic (relaxation)nervous system activity by assessing the variability in the heart's"beat-to-beat" interval, Bejeweled was found to reduce physical stressactivity by 54% compared to the control group. There was no statisticaldifference between male and female subjects. Peggle and Bookworm Adventuresdid not reduce subjects' physical stress levels significantly but did affectpsychological tension, depression and other aspects of mood, in some casesdramatically (see below).
Changes in Aspects of Mood
Mood was measured in six different categories: Psychological Tension,Anger, Depression, Vigor, Fatigue and Confusion. Cumulatively, these sixaspects of mood are called "tot