A new study examines the intriguing link between playing Tetris and healing trauma

As someone who occasionally plays video games, I’ve heard the “violent video games!” spiel many a time. Folks love to scapegoat gaming for social and cultural problems. But those of us who game can find solace in fantastical visual worlds, intricate puzzles, and even simple repetitions like Tetris. Tetris specifically is the subject of a new study that examines how victims of traumatic incidents recuperate.

The researchers’ results offer up another role for video games: post-trauma therapy.

UK, German, and Swedish researchers focused on car crash survivors in a British emergency waiting room. Study participants first recalled their accidents, in effect reliving the incidents. Then researchers either asked them to fill out activity logs of their hospital time or play twenty minutes of Tetris.

Why that game? Well, it’s mind-numbingly addictive and almost thoughtless. Lord knows how many hours of my life I’ve lost lining up blocks. But that same numbing quality can act as a salve. And a week after their hospital stay, those patients that played Tetris after their accidents were forming fewer bad memories.

Of course, any post about a new study warrants taking a grain of salt. There were only seventy-one participants, and they all suffered from the same kind of trauma. But post-trauma care is far from an exact science in general, and there’s no barrier to entry in finding similar menial distractions. And truthfully, we could all use a set of little ways to keep ourselves grounded during these volatile times.