May 27, 2022

Gaming can be good for mental health, study finds

Play on, players.

It’s rare for a story to reach the news that paints the pastime of gaming in a positive light.

For decades, games have been blamed countless times for the world’s ills, from violence and other social problems, to mental and physical health concerns, criticism of gaming never seems to be far away.

This week, however, the industry has received a rare defence from its detractors, from a particularly reputable source.

A study by the team at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford has concluded that playing video games can be good for your mental health.

The research, which focussed on players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as shooter Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, discovered that people who played games more were more likely to report greater “wellbeing”.

The two titles used were ideal for this investigation, as they allowed the researchers to know accurately how long players had spent playing the games. Previous studies had relied on participants being honest about their playtime themselves.

The team found that the length of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in the wellbeing of the people surveyed.

It’s been a very difficult 2020, with people being forced to stay indoors all over the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It should come as no surprise that gamers have benefitted mentally, with such an obvious outlet for the stresses of the ongoing situation.

Animal Crossing = Happiness

Professor Andrew Przybylski, lead author of the study, said: “Without objective data from games companies, those proposing advice to parents or policymakers have done so without the benefit of a robust evidence base.

“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a person’s wellbeing.

“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.”

The study, he said, “shows that if you play four hours a day of Animal Crossing, you’re a much happier human being, but that’s only interesting because all of the other research before this is done so badly.”

Przybylski was quick to emphasise that as the research continued, they may find other games which produce more negative effects:

“We need to study more games, and more players, over more time,” he said.

“It would be like letting psychologists study all the playgrounds in the world.

“We might build a theory of bullying or learn how people build new friendships. My hope is that this fosters curiosity and collaboration and open data.”

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