Study Finds Playing Video Games Linked To Increased Happiness

With the UK in a second national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Christmas on the horizon, many will stay indoors to play and socially connect through video games. New research from Oxford University has delivered a surprising finding; time spent playing games is positively associated with wellbeing. That’s according to a release by researchers at Oxford.

Prof. Andrew Przybylski, who led the study, said he was surprised by the results according to the BBC.  “If you play Animal Crossing for four hours a day, every single day, you’re likely to say you feel significantly happier than someone who doesn’t,” he said. But added, “that doesn’t mean Animal Crossing by itself makes you happy.”

Prof. Przybylski continued that he believes it might have something to do with the social aspects of the two games they studied, suggesting, “I don’t think people plough a bunch of time into games with a social aspect unless they’re happy about it, it’s like a digital water-cooler.”

The study involved two all-ages video games. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and EA’s Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. 3,274 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. That data included actual hours played.

“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,” the release says. “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.”

There was one aspect which lined up with previous research – those who had felt compelled to play, for example because they were seeking to avoid stress elsewhere in their lives, had reported being less content.

Prof. Przybylski went on to say “We need to study more games, and more players, over more time.”

“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.”

Perhaps we would then have a better understanding of the true positive and negative effects that video games can have on our well being. Find the full study here.


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