What Does Gamer-Affirmative Therapy Mean?


  1. Carolyn Stack says

    Mike, by making an analogy between the current social status of gamers and that of gay men and lesbians 10 – 20 years ago, are you suggesting that “being a gamer” is a form of identity? There’s a cultural notion that kids growing up now – deeply immersed in techno-culture, including gaming, v the rest of us are developing different neurological patterns, forms of cognition and relational styles. Any thoughts about this — or other people’s thoughts? I grew up without television. I read a lot. This may be a similar analog to adults now who grew up watching a lot of TV. As much as I’d like to say that the absence of TV was a cognitive benefit, I’m not so sure that it was. It’s easy to fall into prejudiced notions about “kids today” but at the same time I think it’s important (I’m speaking here particularly about therapists) to acknowledge the realities of shifting patterns of communications and being in the world, and therefore (perhaps) shifting possibilities for senses of self or identities.

    • Carolyn, I am suggesting that being a gamer is a form of cultural identity, or perhaps there are multiple identities. Not all people who play video games would consider themselves “gamers,” but gamer culture does share a set of knowledge, language, values, laws and art, and therefore does meet the broad criteria from Boas and Benedict.

      But you raise an additional and very interesting point, that different cultures can and do effect the neurology of their members. Cross-cultural studies such as one by Segall (1966) showed that Zulu were unable to perceive the Muller-Lyer illusion, the implication being that no or limited exposure to rectangular shapes affected their cognitve psychology:

      I think the case is being made in neuroscience that the plasticity of the human mind may in fact be molded differently with more exposure to technology. And of course members of both the technophile and luddite camps are quick to try to point out that this is alternately a evolutionary leap or sign of mental decay. I just think it’s all very cool.

  2. As a therapist and gamer, I can really appreciate what you have discussed in this blog entry. Just last night I was discussing the role of gaming with a client faced with social anxiety. I think WoW, in particular, can really help a client practice social skills. Great discussion!

  3. Very informative Michael! Your knowledge and ability to communicate clearly made this enjoyable and helpful. I was most struck by the comapassionate, open – minded approach you recommend, which I think is critical in all good therapy. Thanks for this!


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  3. […] a connection that has endured as far back as Greece in 400 BC.  And I have often decried the pathologization of gaming as an addiction and gamers as “addicts.”  The portrait I often see sketched is that of gamers as […]

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