Time spent playing video games has no effect on people’s well-being, an Oxford University study has found, countering fears that gaming could be harmful to mental health.
Unlike the vast majority of previous studies on the effect of video games on well-being, the Oxford team was able to track actual gameplay, rather than relying on self-reported estimates.
With the cooperation of seven different game publishers, who agreed to share data without publishing control, they were able to track the gaming habits of almost 40,000 individual gamers, all of whom agreed to participate in the study.
The scale of the study provided strong evidence of no effect on well-being, said Andy Przybylski, one of the researchers. “With 40,000 observations over six weeks, we really gave video game increases and decreases a fair chance to predict emotional states in life satisfaction, and we found no evidence for that – we found evidence that this is not true in a practically significant number of ways.”
What’s important, Przybylski said, is “the mindset people have going into the games.” Players were asked to report their experiences on grounds such as “autonomy”, “competence” and “intrinsic motivation”, to determine whether they were playing for healthy reasons, such as having fun or socializing with friends, or more concerning, such as a compulsion to satisfy the goals set by the game.
Healthier motivation was associated with positive well-being, according to the study, while gamers who felt like they “should” play the game also tended to be less satisfied, regardless of how long they played. Game.
Finding any link between gameplay and well-being could fail at extreme levels: there may be an effect if a player increases their playing time by 10 hours. a day above what is typical for them. The study did not collect data for individual gaming sessions lasting less than zero or more than 10 hours, due to the risk of logging errors. But it’s strong enough to refute many fears of an overall link between playing time and poor mental health.
That said, the results can’t cover the whole game, Przybylski said. Despite the approach of more than 30 publishers, only seven agreed to participate, and the games studied (Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Apex Legends, Eve Online, Forza Horizon 4, Gran Turismo Sport, Outriders and The Crew 2) represent a broad but not full cross-section of the middle.
“It took a year and a half for these game companies to donate their data,” Przybylski said, “and these games weren’t randomly chosen. But it’s the publishers who are ready for open science. .
Still, the study, which builds on an earlier paper from the university that tracked the players for two games, is crucial to closing the “concern and evidence gap”.
“This is a very basic study: we don’t even get into what people do when they play games, we don’t create experience, and yet even without this data, countries adopt ordinances, in the case of Japan, or laws in the case of China, which prohibit or restrict gambling. mental health of young people. There is no evidence that they are effective.