Video Games Can Benefit Well-Being and Mental Health, Says Oxford Study


A newly published Oxford study suggests that video games can actually be good for your well-being and mental health. This study is the result of the university's researchers collaborating directly with Electronic Arts and Nintendo to get telemetry data on Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This way, the researchers didn't have to rely on self-reported play behavior, which tends to be erroneous (the participants of this study overestimated their average game time by about two hours, for instance).

You can find the full paper, penned by Professor Andrew Przybylski alongside fellow researchers Matti Vuorre and Niklas Johannes, at this URL. Below we've selected some of the most relevant quotes on this interesting video games study.

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[...] We found a small positive relation between game time and well-being for both games. We did not find evidence that this relation was moderated by need satisfactions and motivations. Overall, our findings suggest that regulating video games, on the basis of time, might not bring the benefits many might expect, though the correlational nature of the data limits that conclusion.

Players who objectively played more in the past two weeks also reported to experience higher well-being. This association aligns well with literature that emphasizes the benefits of video games as a leisure activity that contributes to people’s mental health (Granic et al., 2014).

[...] Even if we were to assume that game time directly predicts well-being, it remains
an open question whether that effect is large enough to matter for people’s subjective
experience. The effect size we report is below the smallest effect size of interest for media
effects research that Ferguson (2009) proposes. However, even small relations might
accumulate to larger effects over time, and finding boundary conditions, such as time
frames, under which effects are meaningful is a necessary next step for research (Sauer &
Drummond, 2020).

[...] Although our data do not allow causal claims, they do speak to the broader conversation surrounding the idea of video game addiction (e.g., Aarseth et al., 2016). The
discussion about video games has focused on fears about a large part of players becoming
addicted (Kardefelt-Winther, 2015; Przybylski et al., 2017). Given their widespread popularity, many policymakers are concerned about negative effects of game time on wellbeing (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2019). Our results challenge that view.
The relation between game time and well-being was positive in two large samples.
Therefore, our study speaks against an immediate need to regulate video games as a
preventive measure to limit video game addiction. If anything, our results suggest that play
can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating games
could withhold those benefits from players.