New Study Suggests Video Games Can Improve Mental Health And Well-Being

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Despite being painted in a negative light by various mainstream news outlets in the past for their addictive nature and incorrect link to violence in children, video games continue to be enjoyed by billions around the world. So popular has the medium proven to be, in fact, that it now towers above traditional forms of media such as film and TV and continues to rake in record profits.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitating that folks stay home in order to prevent the virus’ spread as well as new consoles arriving courtesy of Microsoft and Sony, 2020, in particular, has proven to be an immeasurably important year for the hobby as it not only provides entertainment, but the means with which to connect friends and family when face-to-face contact is difficult, if not impossible. But even removed from current world affairs, it seems that video games, in general, can be incredibly beneficial to mental health and well-being.

That’s according to a new study recently carried out by researchers at Oxford University, at least. In describing its aims and findings, Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and lead author, recalls how he and his team worked directly with publishers Electronic Arts and Nintendo – rather than rely on self-report surveys, as others have – to carry out the study. Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released by each aforementioned company respectively, were used to gather data on folks’ playing time to investigate the “relation between actual gameplay behavior and subjective well-being.”

Plants vs. Zombies

Key findings, as shared on the OII’s website, are as follows:

  • Actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s wellbeing
  • A player’s subjective experiences during play might be a bigger factor for wellbeing than mere play time.
  • Players experiencing genuine enjoyment from the games experience more positive well-being
  • 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.

Fascinating stuff, then, to say the least, and a most welcome positive outcome, especially as it comes not long after the World Health Organization officially recognized Gaming Disorder as a condition. Ultimately, video games, similarly to most things in life, can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle and, as Przybylski’s study shows, even have the power to be therapeutic.

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