LONDON – Time spent playing video games can be good for mental health, according to a study by researchers at the University of Oxford.
The finding comes as video game sales have exploded this year because so many people have stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The document released today is based on responses from people who played Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
To begin, the study used data provided by game creators Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America, on how much time respondents spent playing, as opposed to previous research that relied on imprecise estimates of players.
Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute found that actual time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being.
The document, which has not been peer-reviewed, said that the level of enjoyment players get could be a more important factor in their well-being than just time.
The results could challenge long-standing assumptions that video games cause aggression or addiction, although the authors acknowledge that they are only a snapshot.
“Our findings show that video games are not necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors that have a significant effect on people’s well-being, ”said Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the institute. “In fact, playing can be an activity that is positively related to people’s mental health, and the regulation of video games could deprive players of those benefits.”
For the study, 2,756 Animal Crossing players were surveyed: New Horizons in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada; Already 518 players of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. They were asked to complete a survey about their experiences that was compared to the game time recorded by the manufacturers.
The lack of transparency on the part of game creators has long been a problem for scientists who hope to better understand user behaviors. The authors believe that previous research used to propose advice for parents and legislators was conducted without solid evidence.