If you or someone you know plays video games and those particular games are scary or violent in nature, you may want to take a moment to consider the health implications.
Although many scary and intense games promise heart-stopping action, some modern video games can actually put some players at risk of high stress levels, loss of consciousness, and heart attacks.
Read on to learn more about the effects these video games can have on your health, whether it’s the intense, action-packed violent version or the sudden fear-filled experience.
There are both benefits and negative effects, but there are ways to be on the lookout for potential risks and seek medical attention if needed.
Think when you are afraid. For example, when you are watching a horror movie and one of its hallmark “jump scares” flashes on the screen.
You will jump a little. Your heart will also feel like it is skipping a beat. It makes your heart beat faster, even if only for a few moments.
You may feel a bit anxious when the movie music veers towards the scary side or if you are anticipating those scary moments while watching the whole movie.
Fight or flight and jump scare effect
Physiologically, our bodies and brains are bombarded with chemicals. Adrenaline and dopamine increase heart rate and blood pressure. This causes the muscles to flood with oxygen, in preparation for what is known as the body’s “fight or flight” response.
It can be a few moments or more, but sometimes that’s not the best thing for your health — especially if you have a heart condition while playing.
Now extend that throughout the entire video gaming experience, where there may be violent action or constant scary moments.
All of these can trigger high stress levels, which can cause the heart to beat faster. It can be dangerous for people with underlying or unknown heart conditions.
Although researchers emphasize that the risk is low and not a common occurrence for video gamers, violent, scary, or emotionally taxing video games are still associated with a heart risk.
In recent years, intense gaming sessions of some video game players have ended when their heartbeats slip into irregular rhythms (arrhythmias). It happens when the electrical impulses that direct and control the heartbeat don’t work properly. This increases the heart rate:
- too fast (tachycardia)
- too slow (bradycardia)
- too soon (premature contractions)
- very irregular (fibrillation)
The prevalence of arrhythmias is estimated
This is not a new field at all, as it has been studied since the early days of video gaming. Actually this sign….
“Given these results, other cardiovascular changes may be expected during video-game playing,” the study authors wrote. “Although the changes reported here are minor, even minor cardiovascular changes can be potentially serious in individuals with cardiovascular disease.”
On a broader scale, some researchers have begun dubbing it the “Fortnite phenomenon,” referring to the popular but violent war-focused online shooting game where players battle other players and zombie-like creatures in a futuristic apocalyptic world.
In a 2020 case report, researchers examined two cases in which children suffered heart attacks after playing online video games. They concluded that these types of games, which have assumed an important role among today’s children and teenagers, are a matter of greater concern than ever.
The intense emotional and stress and adrenaline-inducing effects of these games can have dangerous health effects for those with underlying heart conditions as well as those without known heart conditions.
The same conclusion came from a 2019 research report, in which a group of researchers in Australia highlighted 4 cases of 3 children fainting while playing a war-themed video game. All of them had an underlying condition affecting the heart’s electrical system, but 2 of them did not realize their heart condition until they fainted while playing a game.
The three boys were between 10 and 15 years old and independently lost consciousness when the video game’s combat action escalated to a “fever pitch,” according to the researchers. Each was found to have a rare but serious underlying heart defect, either due to the structure or electrical function of their heart muscle.
- A 10-year-old boy fainted but regained consciousness and later suffered a heart attack at school due to ventricular fibrillation, a very dangerous abnormal heart rhythm that comes with a heart attack. He was diagnosed with a rare heart condition caused by a gene mutation.
- A 15-year-old boy fainted because he was about to win a war game he was playing; He had previously had a hole in his heart surgically repaired. He was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia, or a fast heart rate of 100 or more beats per minute, close to a heart attack. The same boy collapsed again 2 months later, while winning a video game he was playing. He was treated and his heart rhythm was restored.
- An 11-year-old boy collapsed after suffering a heart attack while playing a video game. He was later diagnosed with long-QT syndrome, which causes an irregular heartbeat.
“Electronic games have been shown to significantly increase the heart rate of participants,” the Australian researchers wrote. “Mental stress and heightened emotion decrease the ventricular action potential and are known triggers for cardiac arrhythmias, particularly in long-QT syndrome.”
All of this is not to say that a terrible video game is likely to give anyone a heart attack. But even a casual look at research, including this 2015 study, shows that violent video games have increased stress levels in some teenage girls; Even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to violence.
Also, recently 2021 researchers have pointed out that as online video games become more realistic and access to more immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences, health effects ranging from increased stress, adrenaline, and possible cardiovascular effects may become more apparent.
Interestingly, Indiana University researchers examined this topic in 2015 in a first-of-its-kind study looking at characteristics specific to video games that affect fear experiences and what fear reactions people experience when they experience horror video games.
They surveyed 269 college students online about their experiences with popular video games of the time, including “Resident Evil,” “Call of Duty” and “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.” The study found that more than half of people felt afraid while playing the game, but 44.1% of those who did felt afraid.
- Improved cognitive abilities
- Good problem solving skills and logic
- Increased hand-eye coordination
- More multi-tasking capabilities
- Faster and more accurate decision making
- Enhanced social behavior
- better attention to detail)
Violent, scary, intense action-packed experiences have the potential to increase stress and adrenaline levels in video game players. Those with heart conditions or irregular heart rhythms may be at a higher risk of experiencing health problems from playing these types of sports.
You can consult your doctor if you have certain heart related problems due to video gaming. But if you or anyone playing these games faints or faints while playing, seek emergency medical attention immediately.