In a first-ever study of its kind, linking actual playtime data with a psychological questionnaire, academics from Oxford University found that playing video games is actually good for your mental health and wellbeing.
The study centered on actual playtime (not self-reported playtime) in two titles, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and EA’s Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. Overall, the study says that people who played more video games reported greater “wellbeing” within the questionnaire, correlating with better mental health for those who play a lot of video games.
Lead researcher Andrew Przybylski said the purpose of the study was to use actual data from video game companies in academic research around video games, something that had never been done before. “This is about bringing games into the fold of psychology research that’s not a dumpster fire,” said Przybylski. “This lets us explain and understand games as a leisure activity. It was a quest to figure out is data collected by gaming companies vaguely useful for academic and health policy research?”
Przybylski says that using actual data rather than self-reported data. This study also found that self-reported playtime data tended to be unreliable and not match up to actual user data. “[The study] 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.”
They intend to continue to do research using this actual game data in order to get a better handle on multiple aspects of gaming and how it relates to people’s health. “I’m very confident that if the research goes on, we will learn about the things that we think of as toxic in games,” Przybylski said, “and we will have evidence for those things as well.”
Some examples the paper cites are different games and modes (the two games used are family-friendly games), as well as a player’s attitude before going into the game. “Intrinsic” enjoyment is playing a game simply for fun, while “extrinsic” is playing because you are pushed into it by other people or game mechanics, and these could have an impact on overall mental health benefits of playing games. Przybylski intends for further studies to examine this aspect of playing games.
Przybylski says he hopes the Oxford study motivates other studies to use actual reported data to get better research around games, particularly as it relates to game addiction and mental health harms or benefits that come from playing games. “You have really respected, important bodies, like the World Health Organization and the NHS, allocating attention and resources to something that there’s literally no good data on. And it’s shocking to me, the reputational risk that everyone’s taking, given the stakes. For them to turn around and be like, ‘hey, this thing that 95% of teenagers do? Yeah, that’s addictive, no, we don’t have any data,’ that makes no sense.”
[Source: The Guardian]