After a stressful day at work Lee Hite likes to pop in a video game and unwind.
"I play something fun and less competitive ... when I'm tired and when I want to de-stress," said Mr. Hite, 24, of Chattanooga.
Because of testimonials similar to Mr. Hite's, PopCap Games, a video game developing company, organized a study that looked at the positive effects video games can have on users, company officials said.
Preliminary results of the study indicated there may be mental health benefits from playing video games, said the PopCap spokesman Garth Chouteau.
"The result indicated all three games (used in the study) had dramatic effects on peoples moods," Mr. Chouteau said.
Some people are already playing video games to improve their mood and to reduce stress, according to the study, published this year in the Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine showed. Video games helped reduce participants' negative moods including anger, depression and fatigue, the study indicates.
After the success of the preliminary study, the company decided to begin a second phase this fall to probe the findings further to see if video games could have a positive affect on clinical depression, Mr. Chouteau said.
The study is lead by the Dr. Carmen Russoniello, who directs the psychophysiology lab and biofeedback clinic at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. It is designed to explore the potential of video games being used as an alternative therapy for depression, he said.
While video games can be a good distraction, similar to watching a movie or reading a book, playing alone cannot cure clinical depression, said Dr. Teresa Hutchens, University of Tennessee professor of counseling development.
Activities such as playing video games can give people a break from the stress of life but cannot replace solving the underlying problem, Dr. Hutchens said.
"If it doesn't distract from the goal -- getting to the source (of the depression) -- it can perhaps be a nice little mini-vacation," Dr. Hutchens said.
But if a person using video games as an escape that can be dangerous, because they might not be getting the help they need or solving the issue, she said.
Chad Gadberry, a 33-year-old from St. Elmo, said he enjoys playing video games when he is stressed.
"It clears my mind," Mr. Gadberry said. "It's like an escape from the reality of daily pressures.