Whether it’s Minecraft or Call of Duty, an Oxford University study says gaming may not be a time-wasting pastime but could in fact boost your well-being. This is according to data gathered with the help of gaming companies.
The team at the university’s Oxford Internet Institute looked at some 3,200 gamers in the UK, US and Canada, who were playing Animal Crossing by Nintendo and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville by Electronic Arts.
They presented their results in a study titled “Video game play is positively correlated with well-being,” published online last Friday.
The study claims that 30 years of research on the influence of gaming might have been in vain, as scientists had used a wrong approach – they solely relied on self-reporting of digital behaviors, which is “notoriously imprecise and biased.”
The Oxford study is the first-ever to employ telemetry – the automated logging of users’ interaction with content, which means Nintendo and Electronic Arts provided the scientists with gamers’ actual play behavior, an approach they claim is more “objective.
The scientists monitored the respondents for two weeks, recording how much time they had spent playing, how many levels they had completed, whether they played online and in a group, among other things. The research discovered that the length of playing sessions did not adversely affect mental health; on the contrary, “Players who objectively played more in the past two weeks… [were] reported to experience higher well-being.”
After a two-week period, the gamers were asked to respond to questions and describe their reactions.
The participants reported experiencing “a lot of freedom,” a sense of competence, elation, said they found relationships formed during play fulfilling, and felt joy while playing.
Based on their findings, researchers advise against regulating game playing, saying that “play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating games could withhold those benefits from players.”
The findings cast some doubt on the widespread assumption that gaming leads to aggression and addiction, and negatively affects cognitive functioning.
Video gaming has often been linked to violent crimes such as school shootings in the US and other atrocities.
In 2015, a study by the American Psychological Association claimed to have found “consistent relation” that playing violent computer games led to aggression, admitting, however, that a number of factors were at play.
The authors of the latest Oxford report don’t claim to have found the definite answer as to whether video gaming is good or bad for you. They write that they “were successful in capturing a snapshot” of the relationship between “objective game behavior” and mental health.
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