The study focused on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons players, as well as Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville by EA.
The study found that people who played video games for long periods of time tended to feel happier than those who did not.
This casts even more suspicion on reports that video games can harm mental health.
The study was one of the first to use actual game time data, in which game developers shared anonymous data about how long each participant played.
These records were then linked to a poll in which players answered questions about happiness, and a total of 3,274 players participated, all of whom were over the age of 18.
Thanks to the online nature of gaming, the Oxford University team was able to link psychological questionnaires to real records of a player’s time spent playing games.
Previous studies had tended to focus on self-reported playtime, which the study found was weakly associated with reality.
And Andrew Przybylski said: Andrew PrzybylskiPrincipal Investigator: The study shows that if you played Animal Crossing: New Horizons four hours a day, you’d probably say you feel a lot happier than someone who doesn’t.
The researchers are keen to emphasize that the results are not an absolute authorization for games.
At the start of the project, Przybylski was surprised at how little data the game companies had about their players, and the little data that previous studies had used about the harms or potential benefits of games.
The research studied only two games. The study compared “intrinsic” pleasure with “external” behaviors, which are considered to be more worrying, such as feeling apprehensive while playing.
The researchers hope the study will provide a higher level of evidence for discussions about the concept of video game addiction, or digital harms in general.