A study from the University of Oxford suggested that playing video games could be beneficial for your mental health, as academics at the university worked with actual gameplay data for the first time.
The study focused on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons players, as well as Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville by EA.
The study found that people who played video games for long periods of time tended to be happier than those who did not.
This casts even more suspicion on reports that video games can harm mental health.
The study was one of the first to use real-time gameplay data, in which game developers shared anonymous data about how long each participant played.
These records were then linked to a poll in which players answered questions about happiness, and a total of 3,274 players participated, all of whom were over the age of 18.
Thanks to the online nature of games, the Oxford University team was able to link psychological questionnaires to real records of a player’s time spent playing games.
Previous studies had tended to focus on self-reported playtime, which the study found was poorly related to reality.
Andrew Przybylski, the lead researcher on the project, said: The study shows that if you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons for four hours a day, you are likely to say: You feel much happier than someone who does not.
The researchers are keen to emphasize that the results are not an absolute authorization for games.
(Przybylski) at the start of the project was surprised at how little data the game companies had about their players, and the little data that previous studies had used about the harms or potential benefits of games.
The research studied only two games, and the study compared between “intrinsic” pleasure and “external” behaviors, which are considered more disturbing, such as feeling fear while playing.
The researchers hope the study will provide a higher level of evidence for discussions about the concept of video game addiction, or digital harms in general.