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Thursday, December 3, 2020

University of Oxford study says video games are ‘good for well-being’

A study has indicated people who play video games for prolonged periods of time have a tendency to report feeling happier than those who do not.

Research by The Oxford Internet Institute focused on two games: EA’s Plants vs Zombies and Nintendo’s Animal Crossing.

The developers of the games shared anonymised data about how long each participant had played and these logs were then linked to a survey in which the players answered questions about their well-being.

3,274 participants took part in total, and while Nintendo only provided data regarding each individuals playing time, EA also shared data related to the in-game performance of each individual. The gamers were also asked about how they felt about their experiences.

The results took Prof Przybylski, who led the study, by surprise.

“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,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean Animal Crossing by itself makes you happy.”

Prybylski also went on to add that research from the previous 40 years suggested people were more unhappy the longer they played, and that differing results from this latest study may be due to the social features present in both games in which players interacted with characters controlled by other humans.

“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 said, suggesting both titles provide new ways for individuals to communicate with others online.

The Professor did however state that those who played in order to avoid stress in other areas of their lives reported a greater level of dissatisfaction, before calling on other game-developers to share similar data.

“We need to study more games, and more players, over more time,” he said.

“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.”

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