Study: Playing video games for long hours makes people happier

Study: Playing video games for long hours make people happier
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A study from Oxford University found that people who play video games for long periods of time tend to be happier than those who don’t.

The Oxford Internet Institute study, which focused on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and EA’s Plants vs Zombies, discovered that those who play for longer hours tend to report feeling happier.

The Oxford study

While uncommon, both video game developers shared anonymized data on the time spent by each participant playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.

A total of 3,274 gamers, all of whom are above 18 years old, participated in the study. The game logs from Nintendo and EA were then analyzed alongside a survey in which the players answered questions about their well-being.

While Nintendo just shared information on playing times, EA also provided information about in-game performance of the players, including achievements and the emoticons the participants had used to express themselves.

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The researchers also asked the participants how they felt about their experiences.

In previous studies, participants’ gaming session durations were only determined based on self-reported “guesstimates”, which can cause inaccuracies.

Research results

The study’s lead researcher, Professor Andrew Przybylski, expressed surprise over the results. He said: “If you play Animal Crossing for four hours a day, every single day, you’re likely to say you feel significantly happier than someone who doesn’t.”

However, Prof. Przybylski pointed out: “That doesn’t mean Animal Crossing by itself makes you happy.” He mentioned that studies in the last 40 years had suggested that longer playing hours make people feel more unhappy.

He explained that one factor that may have caused the difference in results was that both of the video games used in the study had social features, in which players were able to interact with characters controlled by other humans.

Przybylski explained: “I don’t think people plough a bunch of time into games with a social aspect unless they’re happy about it. It’s like a digital water-cooler.” He suggested that these games offer new ways for people to interact with each other online.

However, he mentioned that those who had felt compelled to play had reported being less content. For example, some participants may be seeking to avoid stress elsewhere in their lives.

With the results of the study in mind, the professor called on other video game developers to share similar data. “We need to study more games, and more players, over more time,” he said.

He added: “It would be like letting psychologists study all the playgrounds in the world. We might build a theory of bullying or learn how people build new friendships. My hope is that this fosters curiosity and collaboration and open data.”

The current lockdowns being implemented to curtail the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have given a boost to video game companies.

According to Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts, two of the biggest video game companies in the world, they have seen a surge in demand for video games as lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay at home.

For the first three months of 2020, the financial performance of both video game firms significantly improved. Overall, the gaming industry has seen a spike in sales in recent weeks as more people turn to their entertainment services.

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