Oxford University Study Shows Small Correlation Between Playing Video Games And 'Well Being'
from the well-i'll-be dept
For the first few decades after video games became a serious medium of entertainment among the public, they were also blamed for all manner of ills. Violence in children was chief among the concerns, of course, but so too were claims that video games made kids anti-social, apathetic, and fat slobs stuck in their parents’ basements. It was only part of the way into the 2010s when the studies on the topic of video games started making a notable turn away from these dire warnings. Oxford University’s Andrew Przybylski had his hands on many of these new studies, such as the one indicating games only made people violent if they were too shitty or difficult, or his study decoupling social media from any causation of unhappiness in children.
Well, Przybylski is at it again with an interesting study that seems to indicate some correlation, though not causation, between time spent playing video games and “well being.”
The research began in 2019 with the Oxford team discussing collaborative opportunities with several major gaming companies. One of the general goals was to conduct a correlational study using objective play-time data as opposed to the traditional self-reported data used in prior research.
Using anonymized telemetry data supplied by Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America the research ultimately looked at two games: Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players were invited to opt-in to the research, and alongside objective telemetry data they completed surveys asking about emotional well-being and motivations for gaming.
While the researchers were surprised at the findings, which seemed to indicate that there was a small correlation between time spent gaming and self-reporting of positive well-being, Przybylski rightfully cautioned consumers of the report to not come to the wrong conclusion about any of this. The idea isn’t that you should play more games for longer if you want to be happier. Instead, the focus should be why players play certain games. If that’s the focus, the idea that paring back the time playing games to address unhappiness might be exactly the wrong approach for some.
All this goes to suggest regulating video game play solely on duration of play time may not be an effective way to moderate the medium’s possible negative effects. For some people, in some contexts, longer video game play time may lead to more positive well-being outcomes.
“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,” Przybylski adds. “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 point here is that when it comes to mental health and how video games interact with mental health, the landscape is so wildly complicated and full of nuance that blanket approaches become downright silly. And, instead of focusing on the video game as though it were the problem, the focus should be put on the person, what they play and why the play it, and what the outcome of such game playing is for that individual.
When put that way, honestly, it seems rather obvious.