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It’s Official: Study Shows Video Games Do Not Affect Your Well-Being

A new study from 40,000 subjects delivers good news for gamers

According to a new study from the University of Oxford, time spent playing video games does not affect a person’s well-being. 

Over the years there have been studies that suggest video games have detrimental effects to a persons well-being, but for the first time, the Oxford team have been able to track actual gameplay rather produce a report that relied on self-reported estimates. 

After seven different game publishers agreed to share data without control over publication, the Oxford research team were able to track the gameplay habits of nearly 40,000 solo gamers, all of whom gave their consent to join the study. 

Big numbers yield big results

And the sheer scale of the study has provided solid evidence for the lack of an effect on well-being, according to one of the researchers, Andy Przybylski. He stated, “With 40,000 observations across six weeks, we really gave increases and decreases in video game play a fair chance to predict emotional states in life satisfaction, and we didn’t find evidence for that. We found evidence that that’s not true in a practically significant way.”

Przybylski added that it is the “mindset that people have as they approach games” that is important. Several players were asked to report their experience on grounds like “autonomy”, “competence” and “intrinsic motivation”, in order to unpick whether they were playing for healthy reasons, such as having fun or socialising with friends, or more concerning ones, such as a compulsion to satisfy goals and challenges set by the game.

The study found that healthier motivation was associated with positive wellbeing, and players who felt as if they “had” to play the game also tended to have worse satisfaction, despite how long they played. 

It’s worth noting that the study did not collect data for individual gameplay sessions that were less than one or more than 10 hours long due to the risk of logging errors.

Games are good for you?

Przybylski went on to say that findings alone cannot cover gaming entirely. Despite approaching over 30 publishers, only seven of them agreed to take part, with some the studied games (Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Apex Legends, Eve Online, Forza Horizon 4, Gran Turismo Sport, Outriders, and The Crew 2) being broad, but not total cross-section of the medium.

“It’s taken a year and a half for these game companies to donate their data,” Przybylski said, “and these games were not picked at random. But these are the publishers that are up for open science.”

“This is a very basic study. We don’t even get into what people are doing when they’re playing games, we’re not creating an experiment, and yet even without that data, countries are passing ordinances, in the case of Japan, or laws in the case of China, that ban or limit gaming. Those are, if we take the explanations at face value, supposed to be about improving the mental health of young people. There’s no evidence that they’re effective.”

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and freelance video game journalist who covers a variety of content relating to the video game industry. He's also an avid reader who enjoys reading philosophy and autobiographies. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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