Playing video games positively correlated with well-being

February 19, 2021
Playing video games positively correlated with well-being

A first-of-its-kind study from Oxford University using industry data from two popular video games – Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons – has revealed a small but significant correlation between time spent playing and positive well-being.

Over 3,000 gamers contributed to the study, supervised by the Oxford researchers,alongside objective telemetry data supplied by Electronic Arts (EA) and Nintendo of America. The gamers also completed surveys asking about emotional well-being and motivations for gaming.

In the past, video game companies have been reticent to work with academics leading to a reliance on self-reported data for research. Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institutecommends both EA and Nintendo for taking the plunge, supplying the data without any guess as to what the findings could be – the results surprised even the Oxford researchers.

A small but significant correlation between time spent playing and positive well-being was detected. However, Przybylski is keen to emphasise that the findings do not suggest a causal relationship between time spent playing video games and subjective well-being i.e. not a case of the more you play video games the happier you will be.

Przybylski said the data his research gathered suggests when thinking about how video games can influence one’s well-being it may be less important to consider how long one is playing a game and more relevant to ask why one is playing the game.Regulating video game play solely on duration of play time may therefore not be an effective way to moderate the medium’s negative effects, if any.

“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being,” Przybylski added. “In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”

Przybylski’s recent work has been strongly critical of prior research on the subjective effects of modern technology such smartphones and video games. A 2019 study, for example, found the duration of time teenagers spend on digital devices does not correlate with negative mental health outcomes. The study instead suggested a greater need to parse different uses of digital screens, as opposed to broad sweeping recommendations pushing singular amounts of screen time per day.

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Category: Education, Features

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