In an alternate take on the effects of gaming, a recent Oxford University study found that playing video games can be good for our mental health and may even make us happier.
The study looked at self-reported feedback on surveys from two sets of players: 2,756 people from the U.S., U.K. and Canada playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as 518 people playing Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.
The Oxford Internet Institute, publisher of the study, found that the amount of time people spent playing the games was less important than the participants’ perceived level of enjoyment; in this case, the actual amount of active game play was small, but it still had a positive impact.
The research supports prior findings that play can be a vital activity that has important benefits.
The study examined the data provided by Nintendo of America and Electronic Arts, but it has yet to undergo peer review. Researchers also surveyed those gamers separately.
The findings go against commonly held beliefs that gaming necessarily has a negative impact on mental health and that it causes aggression or addiction. This year especially, the video game industry has seen an uptick in video game sales, as more people spend time indoors due to the pandemic.
Researchers found that “experiences of competence and social connection with others” contributed to users’ positive reports. Still, as the study examined only two games, it’s impossible to know whether the results would translate to other genres or gaming platforms.