In a nutshell: Yet another study has shown that playing video games does not affect a person's well-being. This experiment differed from other studies in that the researchers tracked participants' gameplay directly rather than using the usual method of relying on self-reported estimates, which aren't always accurate.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute in the UK conducted the study in cooperation with seven different game publishers, who allowed them to track the gaming habits of those who had consented to participate in the study.
Back in late 2020, the same Oxford team said its research found playing competency-based, socially stimulating games tended to improve the emotional well-being of players. It also noted that participants who play video games for extended periods generally presented happier than those who did not, something the new findings contradict.
The previous study included 3,274 participants and relied on them to give estimations of gameplay times by keeping diaries. The updated study had more people taking part, over 39,000, and researchers could track gameplay habits directly.
Over a period of six weeks, participants' gameplay was monitored in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Apex Legends, Eve Online, Forza Horizon 4, Gran Turismo Sport, Outriders, and The Crew 2.
Play Apex Legends for as long you like, it's unlikely to impact your well-being
Players were asked to report their experiences based on grounds including "autonomy," "competence," and "intrinsic motivation." This was to determine if they were playing for positive reasons (having fun, being sociable with friends) or less healthy ones (a compulsion to beat game goals).
The research suggested that there is no link between gaming time and poor mental health, so cutting down on how many hours kids are allowed to play each week is unlikely to make them feel better, despite what China thinks.
"We really gave increases and decreases in video game play a fair chance to predict emotional states in life satisfaction, and we didn't find evidence for that – we found evidence that that's not true in a practically significant way," Andy Przybylski, one of the researchers, told The Guardian.
But Przybylski did offer a slight caveat on the Oxford website: "We found it really does not matter how much gamers played [in terms of their sense of well-being]. It wasn't the quantity of gaming, but the quality that counted… 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 seemed to give them a strong positive feeling."
This marks the latest study to debunk claims that video games have a damaging effect on a person's mental health, potentially leading to aggressive or violent behavior. These sort of allegations made plenty of headlines following the Columbine shootings over 20 years ago and have reared their heads over the years, despite studies such as this one.