Playing video games unlikely to impact well-being, says study

Those who felt they played video games under their own volition had greater levels of well-being, while those who played because of a 'sense of compulsion' fell on the opposite-end of the scale. — Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

STATEN ISLAND: A large study by the Oxford Internet Institute found "little to no evidence" linking the amount of time playing video games to overall well-being.

Researchers worked with the publishers of seven popular video games and used data from 39,000 international adult gamers to conduct the analysis, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

The study — which used players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Apex Legends, Eve Online, Forza Horizon 4, Gran Turismo Sport, Outriders and The Crew 2 — gathered objective in-game behaviour and answers from a three-wave survey to assess levels of individual well-being, ranging from life satisfaction to emotion levels like happiness and anger.

The scientists then joined the game data with survey answers to conduct its analysis. It is believed to be the largest study of its kind to use real data on player behaviour.

"This exciting study brings together significant amounts of real playing data collected by games companies and donated by players," said Professor Andrew Przybylski, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, in a release. "Our work reliably measures how long people are playing these games across time, data which simply wasn't accessible in the past."

The study contradicted an analysis previously conducted by the same research group in 2020. That smaller study found people who played video games for longer had greater levels of happiness.

However, the newer research, conducted over a six-week period, observed that individuals would have to play for 10 hours more than usual daily to notice personal changes. Rather, the reason for playing was seen to be a more significant indicator of well-being.

Those who felt they played video games under their own volition had greater levels of well-being, while those who played because of a "sense of compulsion" fell on the opposite-end of the scale.

"Our study finds little to no evidence of connections between gameplay and well-being, but we know we need much more player data from many more platforms to develop the kind of deeper understanding required to inform policy and shape advice to parents and medical professionals," said Przybylski.

Scientists involved in the study said that a wider net needs to be cast to better understand the true impact of video games on human health. They said platforms should make it easier for users to share their data with researchers aiming to better understand the effects of video games.

"One thing is certain — right now there is not enough data and evidence for policymakers and regulators to be developing laws and rules to restrict gameplay among certain groups in a population," said Dr Matti Vuorre, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute. "I would urge all online platforms, not just games companies, to make it easy for users to donate their data to independent scholars."

All data used for the study was anonymous and can be made public as a result, potentially informing other studies, the study authors said.

"This project also shows how important transparency is when studying video games. All data were anonymous, protecting participant privacy, and could therefore be made publicly available," said Dr Niklas Johannes, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute.

"The data are a valuable resource and enables other researchers to test their own research questions," added Johannes. "For example, we used these data to show that playing two online shooters had no effect on aggression, and we encourage other scholars to make the most of these data." – Staten Island Advance, NY/Tribune News Service

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