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Oxford University study suggests playing video games can be good for your well-being

By Christian Imperio Published Nov 17, 2020 3:36 pm

An Oxford University study has suggested that playing video games can be good for your mental health.

Using gameplay data from Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons and EA’s Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, the study conducted by academics from the UK university showed that those who played video games for long periods of time experienced higher well-being.

“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,” Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute said. “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.”

More than 3,270 adult players participated in the study aimed to measure well-being, self-reported play, and motivational experiences during play. The survey findings were then combined with objective behavioural data collected by the video game companies.

The Oxford Internet Institute said that the study explored the association between objective game time and well-being. It also examined the link between directly measured behaviour and subjective mental health and explored the roles of player experiences.

The key findings include “Actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being; A player’s subjective experiences during play might be a bigger factor for well-being than mere play time; Players experiencing genuine enjoyment from the games experience more positive well-being; and that findings align with past research suggesting people whose psychological needs weren’t being met in the ‘real world’ might report negative well-being from play."

Last year, the World Health Organization included video game addiction in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The ICD said that gaming disorder is “characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities.”

However, the paper pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of a video game for treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, providing some evidence that there are mental health benefits from playing games.

“'Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and well-being. Without objective data from games companies, those proposing advice to parents or policymakers have done so without the benefit of a robust evidence base,” Przybylski said.

(Photo from Animal Crossing: New Horizons)