Researchers at the University of Oxford and Tilburg University have teamed up with game developer FuturLab to create a unique open online data resource to study the effects of playing video games on the well-being of players.
The study has been fielding in-game data from opted-in participants using a special version of FuturLab’s popular title, Powerwash Simulator since August 2022. It includes data from more than 11,000 players from 39 countries across the globe and is accessible to all.
In PowerWash Simulator, players clean areas, objects and vehicles in the fictional town of Muckingham, unlocking upgrades that help them clean more efficiently and build up their power washing business as they go.
First author, Dr Matti Vuorre, Assistant Professor, Tilburg University said, “Despite widespread worries about the impacts of games on the mental health and wellbeing of players, there is little empirical evidence to support or refute these concerns. We set out to address those concerns by collaborating with FuturLab to collect real-time in-play data about how people feel when they are gaming, and not sometime after as is usually done in video game research.”
The gameplay focuses on relaxation and satisfaction, with the research edition tapping into a player’s psychological experiences and state of mind using an in-game messaging and response system.
Co-author and project lead Professor Andrew Przybylski, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, commented, “Our data set is published as an open resource to help others in the field go further and deeper in the pursuit of understanding more about the psychological state of gamers. This study is a real game changer that opens the black box of gaming for all.”
James Butlin, co-author and Senior Programmer at FuturLab Ltd said: “From a game developer’s perspective, the opportunity to scientifically measure the level of satisfaction, competency, and general well-being your players feel while playing your game is invaluable – and incredibly exciting!
The next step for the team involves performing comprehensive statistical analyses on the PowerWash dataset. They plan on publishing their discoveries in the upcoming months as a continuation of their partnership with FuturLab and we’ll bring you the results when available.