A study published by the University of Oxford has demonstrated that video gaming during lockdown increased mental well-being due to a variety of factors, and that time spent playing was not the most critical factor.
The combination of more national lockdowns across Europe and North America and the Christmas season likely has video game developers, whose industry didn’t take much of a hit during the economic contractions from the COVID-19 pandemic, expecting increased sales.
However, as a pre-print study by Oxford University scientists demonstrates, it might not be a bad thing to get a copy of Animal Crossing or Plants vs. Zombies in your stocking this year.
That is because, as Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute found, the long-lasting use of poor scientific methods to measure the effects of gaming on individuals’ mental well-being has potentially obscured the benefits, especially social, especially in lockdown, that complex and engaging video games can provide.
Recent evidence suggests self-reports of digital behaviours are notoriously imprecise and biased, which limits the conclusions we can draw from research on time spent on video games and well-being.Przybylski
Video games can provide positive or calming stimulation to the mind, as things like interacting with well-designed characters, dialogue, or storylines can be even more engaging than the same three aspects in other things like films, since in a video game you get to act out the story.
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Przybylski’s study utilized self-reporting, but only for measures of mental well-being and not, critically, of game time. Przybylski, in an interview with the told Oxford University Press, said that:
Working with Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America we’ve been able to combine academic and industry expertise. Through access to data on peoples’ playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behavior and subjective well-being, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.Przybylski