If You're Stressed, Playing Games Might Make You Feel Worse

New study says some people might experience feelings of guilt and failure if they play games or watch TV after a stressful day.

The story is familiar. After a tough and stressful day at work or school, you come home and watch TV or play video games as a way to relax. But according to a new study, unwinding with such media could actually make you feel worse. New research publishing in the Journal of Communication found that some people who watch TV or play games when they are stressed out might experience feelings of guilt and failure.

As reported by GameSpot sister site CBS News, past research indicated that people were more likely to overcome their fatigue faster if they watched thought-provoking videos or played games. This "recovery experience" let media consumers detach from the struggles of their daily lives and instead enjoy feelings of control and fulfillment.

The new study, on the other hand, attempts to explain why this "recovery experience" is not actually beneficial to all people. In some cases, like the ones described in the study, exposure to media like TV and video games led people to feel guilty, depressed, or frustrated.

The authors of the study, called The Guilty Couch Potato: The Role of Ego Depletion in Reducing Recovery Through Media Use, argue that "ego depletion" can explain this phenomenon. This is a state in which a person's willpower is exhausted. A person experiencing ego-depletion is more likely to feel tired and listless, be more impulsive, and give in to temptations like fatty foods to help themselves feel better.

When such "ego-depleted" people partake in TV or video games instead of activities like sports, art, or other social events, they often felt guilty instead of enjoying themselves, the study found. Researchers went on to conclude that those who were fatigued after a day of work oftentimes labeled their media consumption as procrastination instead of relaxation or entertainment.

Lastly, the researchers say that the widespread availability of smartphones today is not helping people relax, either. "In times of smartphones and mobile Internet, the ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource," one of the study's co-authors said.

You can read the full study right here. What do you make of the findings? Let us know in the comments below!

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
122 comments
CommandoAgent
CommandoAgent

And a New Study provided by Government  says that living can be a bad thing.


I am honestly getting tired of these studies which are provided by Government.

sdcazares1980
sdcazares1980

I guess it all depends. Sometimes I play my games. Sometimes I don't. 

NightmareP3
NightmareP3

When i'm stressed the last thing i want to do is play an online competetive game, i still don't understand how playing a very competetive game is a good way to relax and have fun after a hard work/school day. All it does is cause more stress for me.

However playing a good fun open world game where i can mess around is just perfect after a hard work day or maybe a good co-op game like Left 4 Dead 2 or Killing Floor.

blaze_boy30
blaze_boy30

I think that the intent behind playing video games is more important than actually playing video. A lot of people play games, but they may not play for the same reasons. Furthermore, the reason may change at any given point. One day your playing a game for pure enjoyment, then another day you could be playing a game because your procrastinating. I personally juggled between both. I don't think it's as cut and dry as this study would lead us to believe.

pizzaboyuk
pizzaboyuk

so... one study shows one result affects people in one way, whilst another shows it affects people in the direct opposite?

once upon a time, the only thing this proves was that both conclusions wrong...

Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

As a Paramedic, after a rough day, video games are my go to place. I feel relaxed and it takes my mind off things. 

bernard978
bernard978

Well I feel better after I've booted up my PC after a long day to play something.

vadagar1
vadagar1

actually thats only true when i play dota 2

realzeroice
realzeroice

I feel guilty when I don't play a game after a hard day of work ..........

musalala
musalala

Just a heads up , single solitary studies prove nothing in the slightest you need to have many many repeat studies that show the same outcome before a relationship between two variables is established and even then you can't talk about causality  ,meaning you can't claim  "A causes B."


This is the man reason why we have a "study" every other day claiming something or the other.

DeFiLeDTitan
DeFiLeDTitan

i wish i could get a research grant. I can come up with redundant and/or nonsensical studies with the best of them.  

normallygeneric
normallygeneric

This is a very old debate, but my opinion hasn't changed on it. It depends on the person how they will react to each video game at each given time, there are few patterns.

callsignalpha
callsignalpha

The actual mechanism is something like this: you come home from a stressful day (say from an office) and you have been assigned some work and instead of doing your work ,you waste your time playing video games..............thats gonna make you more stressed.....now if you take gaming as an incentive to do work then i assure you.....after work..it feels really liberating

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

I feel guilty about the time and productivity I wasted reading this bullchit of an article (like most written on here) about conclusions that are wildly speculate, and only views the extremes of the data collected. Not to mention heavily swayed by culture, financial, etc. 

I would have even more feelings of guilt and failure for posting a comment if I wasn't already on the toilet. 

vibroknife
vibroknife

Its weird cuz i feel the opposite of stressed when gaming

Ereheru
Ereheru

The online survey was for this study was 417 people who were from two German University or referred by a German gaming site.  The questions were along the lines of "After working, I feel my willpower is depleted : 1 = Not at all, 7=Completely true" (I couldn't find the actual survey, sorry).


So, in Germany, there are some people who this applies to.  To me, it seems to be another case of a study that starts with the conclusion, and works backwards toward that, as opposed to collecting data and collating it to find the results.


Wiley Online Library, who published this report, is owned by the company that publishes that "For Dummies" books, so I'll let you guys write the joke that will use that info for the punchline, since my willpower is to depleted to prevent my procrastination of writing it myself...

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

I definitely don't play games or watch TV if I am stressed. You can't concentrate even when playing your favorite games or watching your favorite comedy show won't help. Lying down is the best solution then go out for walk. Big change. Some prefer talking to others. Then you can get back to normal.

Darkmoone1
Darkmoone1

Yeah, I'll totally feel worse after I got to the next bonfire in Dark souls 1/2 or beat an enemy in Street Fighter after a hard and stress induced day..... =/

Tiwill44
Tiwill44

What a bunch of casuals. Feeling bad for playing video games. Pfft.

veryDERPY
veryDERPY

so basically the feeble minded sulk while playing vidiya instead of dealing with it...yesyes

DrKill09
DrKill09

Bullshit.  All depends on what you're playing.  If it's an open world game, and you're just messing around, you'll be fine.  If you are trying to play Silver Surfer on the NES, yeah, it will piss you off.  Common sense.

katerinafm
katerinafm

I think it depends on the situation and most importantly, the person's personality. If people play games instead of facing and dealing with problems in their every day life, it makes sense that they could potentially feel guilty about it. But that depends on the person. 

Also, I don't see why this is focusing on gaming if we're talking about guilt and procrastinating. Doing anything else instead of facing your problems can cause guilt, not just gaming. If said person wasn't gaming, it would have found something else to focus on instead of work/problems and still have had the same result.

holtrocks
holtrocks

I cannot game when I know their is more important stuff I should be doing because I just can't stop thinking about it.

gargungulunk
gargungulunk

Why can't it be both?

I know when work needs to be done, and gaming can be the procrastination...I also know about when a hard day is over and I just want to blacksmith or save the planet.  This applies to any hobby, it becomes more prioritizing time off & recognizing a source to the stress: action vs dismissal/escapism.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

What games are they playing, stressful games like online shooters, or games simply meant to be frustrating rather than fun, such as Dark Souls, Hotline Miami, that kind of stuff?  Seriously, how many gamers don't know that certain games are played when trying to unwind, and other frustrating ones are for more special occasions (whatever the occasion when frustration would be enjoyable, or whatever people get out of frustrating games).

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

Lmao ok so basically lets sum this one up....


We spent a crap ton of money to find out that some people are different from other people when they are stressed.


NO!!!!REALLY???NEVER WOULD OF THUNK IT!!!


*facepalm*

Pewbert
Pewbert

So it might not work, but it might work. Cool.

At least that wasn't a complete waste of time and money.

Hurvl
Hurvl

This is interesting, but I think I know myself well enough not to need a study to tell me what I should/shouldn't do to relax.

Johny_47
Johny_47

Two words - Elder Scrolls. If I'm any bit pis^ed off and I play one of those games, it's one of phew things that helps calm me. Certain music is best for me though, can't beat that.

blackothh
blackothh

It depends on the kind of game I would say. 


If the game is like a MOBA where your chances of winning are not great, then im sure a loss right off the bat would be not good for your morale


But a game where you can go blasting through or a game where you create things may make you feel better.

tr4newreck
tr4newreck

ridiculous


nvm video games, is watching a movie or show any more or less of a procrastination, it sounds like these people really don't know how to unwind.... 


Monsterkillah
Monsterkillah

Depends of the game

Playing dark souls afer stressfull condition sure wont help

Play easier games like batlefield or fifa will help u relaxed better

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

This seems obvious and shouldn't really require a study.

If you're not happy with your current social life, finances or physical fitness then spending most of your free time doing something that's counterproductive to solving those problems will make you feel guilty, like you're slacking or procrastinating.  


The main reasons I exercise, went to college and actually try at my job are so I can do things like play video games without any nagging guilt.  I honestly could care less about my social life, though; I genuinely don't like people. 

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

"New study says some people might"

Really should have stopped reading after that.  Another important article by Eddie.

guydude3412
guydude3412

After a long, stressful day, I let all out by nowning newbs.

berserker66666
berserker66666

In my case, it just makes me want to play better.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I would say that it depends on which one of the 30 videogame genres. That you choose the play in order to unwind. Games that require full attention and concentration. Might not be the best choice to relax with. Since your are still experience mental preoccupation of a stressful day gone wrong.

halfacentaur
halfacentaur

@NightmareP3 Some people enjoy the challenge. It's thought-provoking and requires you to push yourself. There's also usually human interaction, or at least, you know that your actions are effecting another human being to some capacity - so there's a sense that you're actually apart of something that isn't just scripted or entirely computer generated (no emotion there).

DawnBlue
DawnBlue

@NightmareP3 I can tell you why: different people think of different games as competitive. Some people, however, play everything to have fun no matter how competitive the games are in nature

Zloth2
Zloth2

@DrKill09  Say you've had a long, hard day and you need to get out and mow the lawn before it gets dark (and probably rains tomorrow).  Unfortunately, you signed up for some study so now you've got to play a stupid video game and/or watch TV for the next two hours instead of doing what needs to be done.

Look at what they said!  They are getting more stressed because they feel like they are procrastinating.  It doesn't matter what they are playing, it's the fact that they are PLAYING when there's work that needs doing.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@gargungulunk  It's not just entertainment, either.  My house is always cleanest right before I finally sit down and do my taxes.

nervedamaged
nervedamaged

@WolfGrey Let's face it.  I don't care what the study is for.  For every study, there will be another study that says the opposite.  Do it for any category, diets, drugs, there will always be an equal and opposite re-action.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@WolfGrey  They're focusing on people that buck a trend.  However, it doesn't necessarily invalidate the trend.  Though I do agree having email, social networking, tweets and other related crap do simply add more crap to do.

Oogazi
Oogazi

@blackothh I don't think its about the winning or losing, but more about the feeling of guilt by self-reflecting on the fact that you're wasting your life playing video games


Like the article said, its like when someone undergoes binge-eating for the immediate pleasure, but that diminishes really quickly, and you feel guilty afterwards


People should play games the same way a hobbyist enjoys their hobbies, not as a sole mechanism to reduce pain and stress

hitomo
hitomo

@joejoe1639  but what is described here needs a form of deeper selfrefelction as well, wich in turn will cause feelings of 'guilt and failure'


the sinple fact you feel guilt by playing video games is telling ... most People dont feel that when in a situaiton like you described, they simply enjoy themself because their indepletable ego is narrowing their event.horizon