Communities may shiver when a hot new video game is released, but the hours spent playing popular video games don’t seem to be harming players’ mental health, according to the largest-ever survey of nearly 40,000 gamers and their playing habits, which was conducted. Over six weeks by a team from the Oxford Internet Institute. However, that doesn’t mean the research hasn’t raised some concerns – and the team argues that more information is needed before technical regulators can truly rest.
Research published in the magazine Royal Society of Open Science, found no causal relationship between gaming and poor mental health – whatever kind of games are played. But Professor Andrew K. Przybylski, a senior research fellow at OII, says the research has already shown a clear difference in the experience of players who play “because they want to” and those who play “because they feel they need to”.
He confirms: “We found that it doesn’t really matter how many players are playing [in terms of their sense of well-being]. It wasn’t the amount of play, but the quality that counted… If they feel they have to play, they feel worse. If they play because they liked it, the data does not indicate that it affects their mental health. It seems to give them a strong positive vibe.”
The groundbreaking survey of players was the most comprehensive to date, using multiple platforms and seven different games, including core games, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons, racing simulators such as Gran Turismo Sport and more competitive games, such as Apex Legends and Eve Online. There was no difference in the impact on mental health, says Professor Przybylski – whether the game involved moving to a new city with talking animals, as in Animal Crossing, or participating in a battle royale-style game, such as Apex Legends.
Players own their game data, which is collected by the platforms, and nearly 40,000 people have given permission to use it in this research. Previous studies have often involved players taking notes of their reactions to games. Prof. Przybylski says access to real-time gaming data has only given insight into the impact of gaming. And while the OII has made the data available to other academics, it is a drop in the ocean in terms of possible available data and provides only limited access.
Prof. Przybylski explains, “About a billion people play video games worldwide. There are 3,000 games on the Nintendo platform alone. People play multiple games – and we were able to access information about 39,000 people who play just seven popular games.”
To answer the questions that parents, like him, want to answer, Prof. Przybylski says, “We need to collect large, representative samples and we need to do this at the platform level. Looking at just seven toys, is like looking at seven food items — when you know Tesco and supermarkets other market, sell thousands of different foods and shoppers fill various shopping carts
In addition to being a parent, Professor Przybylski grew up playing games himself, and he says such research is necessary to understand the true impact of games on the individual. Although today’s research suggests that gaming may only have a negative impact on those who feel compelled to play, not all users, there is a lot that can be learned.
“These are just the first steps in the world of understanding how games fit into players’ lives,” he says. “And it seems that why you play is the main factor. This is an exciting study, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
But months of negotiations with gaming platforms, over data usage, preceded the research, followed by months of analysis. Prof Przybylski says analyzing the data itself was the easy part. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo platforms have complex relationships with hundreds of game developers and it’s hard to convince everyone that independent and accurate science is in the best interests of their players. But, notes Prof. Przybylski, that the data belongs to the players — not the platforms and not the game developers, “Players have the legal right to donate their data… It would be a great step forward if we collected data at the platform levels.”
He adds, “Players want to know the impact of games. Scientists want to know. Parents want to know. Government wants to know. I want to know…I want to know…and the information is there. This data needs to be open and needs to be easy to share.” “.
Professor Przybylski concludes that “if large gaming platforms care about the well-being of their players, they need to empower gamers and scientists to learn more about how their products affect us, for good or for bad.”
Playtime has little effect on short-term mental health: Study
Mate Fury et al., time spent playing video games is unlikely to affect well-being, Royal Society of Open Science (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rsos.220411
Provided by Oxford University
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