Playing video games can be good for your mental health, new research suggests.
The study by the team at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, focused on players of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville by Electronic Arts.
Crucially, it included data from the games-makers on how long each participant had played the video games, rather than estimates.
This information was linked to a survey in which the gamers were asked how they felt about their experiences.
The team found that the actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s wellbeing.
The findings throw some doubt on long-held assumptions that gaming causes aggression or addiction – though researchers of the the non-peer reviewed paper admitted the study only provides a snapshot.
They also they said that a player’s subjective experiences during play might be a bigger factor for wellbeing than mere play time.
Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and wellbeing.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, lead author of the study, said: “Without objective data from games companies, those proposing advice to parents or policymakers have done so without the benefit of a robust evidence base.
“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a person’s wellbeing.
“In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”
He added: “Through access to data on people’s playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behaviour and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.”
A total of 3,274 gamers took part in the study.
The research was supported by grants from the Huo Family Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council.