By Adam Hood – KLTV Contributor
A recent University of Oxford study has found that people who play video games for extended periods are likely to feel happier than those who don’t.
This study is the first of its kind. Unlike other studies that will ask people how much they play, it uses industry data received from companies on the actual play times for the video games Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and lead author of the study, had this to say about the study:
“Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and wellbeing. 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’ 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 peoples’ playing time, for the first time, we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual gameplay behaviour and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.”
As Andrew Przybylski mentioned, the developers of these two games have shared anonymized data about how long the study participants had played.
So the data was then used together with a survey that had the players answer questions about their wellbeing.
The study had a total of 3,274 gamers taking part, and all participants were over the age of 18.
The use of the data obtained from the developers is better than previous research. This is due to data that is gathered from the participants on the duration of their gaming sessions. The report calls these ‘guesstimates,’ and they can be inaccurate.
Regarding the data provided, Nintendo only provided data regarding the playtimes of players in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. EA, on the other hand, shared both playtime and data about the in-game performance of players. This included achievements as well as the emoticons used by gamers to express themselves.
The participants were asked about how they felt about their experiences with these games.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, who led the study, expressed his surprise at the results and he said:
“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.”
“That doesn’t mean Animal Crossing by itself makes you happy.”
However, he did add that what the past 40 years of previous research suggest is that the longer you played a game, you would be more unhappy.
The professor suggested that this discrepancy could be due to both games having social features that allowed them to interact with other characters that are being controlled by players.
He said: “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,” he described it, as both titles allow for players to socialize with others online.
However, he did state that those who were playing because they felt compelled to – for example, seeking a way to avoid stress reported feeling less content.
Professor Andrew Przybylski has called on other game developers to share similar data, stating:
“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.”