Playing games does not harm mental health, unless gamers ‘have to play’ instead of ‘want to play’ 

,Playing games does not harm mental health, unless gamers “have to play” instead of “want to play” according to the largest-ever survey of nearly 40,000 gamers and their gaming habits, which was conducted over six weeks by a team from Oxford’s Internet Institute (OII).

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Society may tremble when a hot new video game is released, but the results of the study found no causal relationship between gaming and poor mental health in any type of game being played, suggesting that the hours spent playing popular video games do not appear to be harming players’ mental health.

However, this does not mean that the research did not raise certain worries. The team says that there needs to be a lot more research before tech regulators can really relax.

The research did reveal a noticeable difference between the experiences of gamers. That is, gamers who play “because they want to” and those who play “because they feel they have to.” This siaccording to Professor Andrew K. Przybylski, OII Senior Research Fellow.

Przybylski says, “We found that in terms of gamers’ sense of wellbeing, it actually doesn’t matter how much they play.” The quality of the gaming, not its quantity, was what mattered. If they felt they had to play, they felt worse. If they played because they loved it, then the data did not suggest it affected their mental health. It appeared to give them a strong positive feeling.

Playing games does not harm mental health, unless gamers “have to play” instead of “want to play

The poll of gamers was the most thorough to date, including numerous platforms and seven different games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, racing simulators such as Gran Turismo Sport and more competitive games like Apex Legends and Eve Online. 

According to Przybylski, whether the game involves traveling to a new place with talking animals, as in Animal Crossing

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or participating in a battle royale-style game, as in Apex Legends, there was no difference in the impact on mental health.

Nearly 40,000 participants approved the use of their gaming data which was used for this study. Players frequently kept diaries of their feelings toward gaming in earlier studies. However, according to Professor Przybylski, the availability of real-time gaming data provided a tantalizing glimpse into the effects of gaming.

Additionally, although the OII has made the data accessible to other academics, it only provides restricted access and represents a drop in the ocean of potential data availability. According to Professor Przybylski, there are around 1 billion gamers globally. Only the Nintendo platform has 3,000 games. People play a variety of games, and we were able to get data on 39,000 players of only seven well-known games.

Platform level data of gamers

Professor Przybylski said that in order to provide the answers parents like him want, “We need to collect large representative samples and we need to do it at the platform level. Looking at just seven games is just like looking at seven different foods when you consider that Tesco’s and other supermarkets sell thousands of different foods and that customers fill a variety of trollies.”

Przybylski, who is also a parent, grew up playing video games and he claims that such research is necessary to comprehend the true effects of gaming on an individual. There is still much to learn about gaming, even when this study suggests that it may only have a detrimental impact on people who feel compelled to play, rather than on all users.

He claims that “these are only the initial steps in learning how gaming fits into players’ life. And it appears that the main consideration is why you are playing. Although this is fascinating researPlayingch, much work remains.”

However, months of discussions on the use of the data by the gaming platforms came before the research. This were followed by months of analysis. According to Professor Przybylski, analyzing the data itself was the simple part.

Read: Professor who called his students ‘vectors of disease’ gets $95,000 paycheck

Przybylski said “Players want to know what influence gaming has, as well as  scientists, parents and the government. I’m also curious and the answer needs to be available. This information must be accessible to anyone and be simple to share.”

“Gaming platforms need to empower gamers and scientists to learn about the effects of their products on them. That is, whether good or bad. That is, if they care about their players’ well-being,” Przybylski added.

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