Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi
Playing video games could have a positive effect on wellbeing, according to a new study that looked at data provided by games firms.
Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America provided the University of Oxford with information on two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Players were asked to carry out a survey on their experiences which was matched up against behavioural data of participants.
The non-peer reviewed paper found that the actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s wellbeing.
Previous studies about gaming have often relied on self-report studies with gaming companies being accused of a lack of transparency by scientists hoping to better understand player behaviours.
Lead author of the study, Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, 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.
“Working with Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America we’ve been able to combine academic and industry expertise.
“Through access to data on people’s playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behaviour and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.”
The researchers admit the study only provides a snapshot and say that a player’s subjective experiences during the game might be a bigger factor for wellbeing than mere play time.
Players experiencing genuine enjoyment from the games experience more positive wellbeing, the paper claims.
“Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and wellbeing,” Professor Przybylski said.
Last year, Professor Przybylski conducted a study based on self-report surveys that contradicted long-held assumptions that video games causes aggression in teenagers.
For this study, some 518 players of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville took part, while 2,756 were from Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The research was supported by grants from the Huo Family Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council.
“Policymakers urgently require reliable, robust, and credible evidence that illuminates the influences video games may have on global mental health,” the paper concludes.
“In this study we show that collaborations with industry partners to obtain adequate data are possible.
“Research with these data can be done to academic standards – ethically and transparently.
“We are optimistic that collaborations of this sort will deliver the evidence required to advance our understanding of human play and provide policymakers the insights into how they might shape, for good or ill, our health.”
24/7 help and support with gaming addiction from UK Addiction Treatment Group can be found here.