Playing video games is good for mental health, new study suggests

A new study from Oxford University finds that playing video games is good for mental health, which is great news given how many people are gaming in quarantine.

Are you considering buying a next-generation Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5? It’s a big purchase, but would it tip the scales if we told you that playing video games is good for your mental health?

And you don’t have to take our word for it: this comes from academics at Oxford University, who conducted a study on this exact subject, per The Guardian. The study focused on two completely different games: Animal Crossing: New Horizons — a famously relaxing game for the Nintendo Switch — and EA’s Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, which is far less soothing. Researchers used the internet connectivity features of these games to link up to psychological questionnaires. They also collected gameplay data themselves rather than relying on the subjects to self-report their own playtimes, which often produces misleading results. “This is about bringing games into the fold of psychological research that’s not a dumpster fire,” said lead researcher Andrew Przybylski. “This lets us explain and understand games as a leisure activity.”

At the end of the day, those who played a lot of video games reported greater “well-being,” which is great news for people in quarantine who have found themselves doing a lot more gaming lately. And that’s a lot of people, as business has boomed in the age of the coronavirus.

“[The study] shows that if you play four hours a day of Animal Crossing, you’re a much happier human being, but that’s only interesting because all of the other research before this is done so badly,” said Przybylski. “I’m very confident that if the research goes on, we will learn about the things that we think of as toxic in games, and we will have evidence for those things as well.”

As Przybylski points out, this study is limited. It’s only looking at two games, after all. How will results be different if they look at more intense games like the latest Call of Duty?


Anyway, since we’re on the topic of video games, there are a couple of exciting new sci-fi and fantasy titles to relax and play as 2020 draws to an end.

First up, we have Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, which has shifted more copies in its launch week than any other games in the long-running franchise. Clearly, people are loving the new Viking setting! What’s more, apparently there is a TV show and (yes, another) movie adaptation in the works.

Next, for all the web-slingers out there, there’s always Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which recently dropped on the PlayStation 5. It looks just as beautiful as its superstar 2018 predecessor.

Gaming has been a great way to eliminate boredom during a time when a lot of us have been stuck at home. Even if there’s more research to be done, it’s great to see a study that has something positive to say about gaming and gamers, especially when a lot of discourse in the past has focused on how desensitizing they can be. Hopefully we’ll get an even clearer picture as the body of research continues to grow.

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