Playing war-themed videogames like Call of Duty can help soldiers deal with the mental trauma of front line combat by blocking violent nightmares, according to a new study.

As reported by New Scientist, a survey of 98 military personnel by Jayne Gackenbach of Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada showed that regularly playing games that focused on war diminished the level of harm and aggression experienced while dreaming about their experiences.

Not only were the subjects' dream less intense but they reportedly also felt able to fight back against the threatening forces that appear in the nightmares.

A control group who did not play games reported having more violent dreams, as well as a general sense of helplessness.

Gackenbach explained the trend by suggesting that violent games act as a "threat simulator," conditioning the mind to process similarly brutal scenarios that manifest themselves in nightmares.

She also claimed that the popularity of gaming amongst soldiers serving in war zones could be seen as a form of unconscious self-medication against the horrors that many of them witness.

"They're taking (PlayStation 3s, Xbox 360s and other consoles) into the field and playing them all the time. And it turns out, there may be a good reason to let them do that."

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Fred Dutton

Fred Dutton

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Fred Dutton is Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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