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Video Games Are Good For Our Mental Health, Finds Oxford Study

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Photo Credit PxFuel|Game Screen

It might be a great idea to buy that new PlayStation: a study has found that video games are good for your mental health!

A team at Oxford University conducted a study that focused on people playing the Nintendo’s smash hit Animal Crossing, in addition to EA’s Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, and found that people who play more video games report healthier mental wellbeing.

The Guardian reports that this was the first scientific study to use play-time data by the university team, connecting and correlating psychological questionnaires with records of time spent in-game.

Leader researcher Andrew Przybylski said of the study:

This is about bringing games into the fold of psychology research that’s not a dumpster fire. This lets us explain and understand games as a leisure activity. It was a quest to figure out: is data collected by gaming companies vaguely useful for academic and health policy research?

Przybylski expressed surprise at how little research has been done on video games, and how the limited hard data from that research hadn’t been used in any studies focusing on its positive or negative effects.

The study showed that four hours of Animal Crossing made people much happier, and Przybylski said that earlier research on wellbeing and gaming was “done badly.”

Although the study indicates benefits to gaming, Przybylski believes that as more research is conducted, more harmful effects will be discovered. He said, “I’m very confident that if the research goes on, we will learn about the things that we think of as toxic in games.”

As Przybylski views previous data on the topic as poor, he hopes the study will help with discussions around video game addiction, among other things. His research study only focused on two games for all ages, and other modes of play could be less wholesome. Another complication is a person’s attitude toward gaming, which could affect the mental impact the game has. 

Przybylski said to The Guardian,

You have really respected, important bodies, like the World Health Organization and the NHS, allocating attention and resources to something that there’s literally no good data on. And it’s shocking to me, the reputational risk that everyone’s taking, given the stakes. For them to turn around and be like, ‘hey, this thing that 95% of teenagers do? Yeah, that’s addictive, no, we don’t have any data,’ that makes no sense.

If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.  

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