Playing video games is good for well-being, shows Oxford research
Many have mixed views about video games and time spent playing them, but new research released by the University of Oxford on Monday says that the time spent playing such games is positively associated with well-being.
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen more people hunkered down in homes playing video games and connecting with others through social media. Described as a first-of-its-kind study, researchers used industry data on actual play time for popular video games.
The study concluded that the actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being; and that 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, it said, adding that the study’s findings align with past research suggesting people whose psychological needs were not being met in the “real world” might report negative well-being from play.
The study used data on actual play time for popular video games Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and suggests that experiences of competence and social connection with others through play may contribute to people’s well-being.
Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, and lead author of the study, said, “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.
“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. 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 researchers worked with Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America to combine academic and industry expertise.
“Through access to data on peoples’ playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behaviour and subjective well-being, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers,” Przybylski added.
The study explored the association between objective game time and well-being, examining the link between directly measured behaviour and subjective mental health. It also explored the roles of player experiences, specifically how feelings of autonomy, relatedness, competence, enjoyment and feeling pressured to play related to well-being.
More than 3,270 players were asked to complete a survey designed by the researchers to measure well-being, self-reported play, and motivational experiences during play. The survey findings were combined with objective behavioural data for the survey participants, collected by the video game companies.