Study measures Super Mario Odyssey’s impact on depression

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A psychological study suggests that video games like Super Mario Odyssey may help alleviate the symptoms of depression.

The effects of playing video games have been getting greater attention from psychologists and sociologists. Some of that attention has been negative like video game addiction being declared a diagnosable condition. However, a study by the University of Bonn in Germany suggests that video games, Super Mario Odyssey in particular, may help treat depression.

The 2017 Game of the Year contender was pitted against two traditional psychological treatments to gauge which was the most effective in terms of treating depression. The 3D platformer that follows one of gaming’s most iconic characters and the burgeoning film icon came out on top. While the researchers explicitly note that more research is needed, the results sparked discussion and could lead to broader efforts to discern the possible benefits of playing video games.

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Can Super Mario Odyssey cure depression?

There is no evidence to suggest that Super Mario Odyssey cures depression, but a study found that playing video games may help reduce depressive symptoms in individuals. This comes from the research paper “The Effects of a Video Game Intervention on Symptoms, Training Motivation, and Visuospatial Memory in Depression.”

The study involved 46 participants who were divided into three groups, with one group playing Super Mario Odyssey, one undergoing a cognitive training computer program named “CogPack,” and the final acting as a control group by undergoing standard treatments for depressive symptoms.

After the six-week study period was over, it was found that the proportion of patients with depressive symptoms decreased from playing Super Mario Odyssey at a higher rate than those using CogPack or the group that went through a standard treatment regimen. Additionally, some participants from the video game group also saw increased training motivation and improvements in tasks of visuospatial memory performance after the testing period was over.

The researchers explicitly note that the results are not definitive, as the limited sample size and the specific participants who took part in the study “may have reduced the statistical power of the study.” The paper concludes that there is enough evidence to suggest that video games may provide benefits for those suffering from depression, which warrants further research.

There is no evidence that games like Super Mario Odyssey can replace traditional treatments for depression and other psychological disorders. However “results suggest that video game training may be a useful adjunctive treatment option for reducing depression in patients with MDD,” the research article states.

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Written by Hannan Mundia

Hannan Mundia has been playing video games since he was just three years old. He loves everything about gaming, from RPGs to first-person shooters. He has sunk countless hours into Bethesda's popular RPGs, but his favorite game remains Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. His writing has also been featured on Fandom Spot, and you can follow him on Twitter / X at @zombiezomz.

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