Video games can provide benefits to mental health, suggests new Oxford University study

‘If you play four hours a day of Animal Crossing, you’re a much happier human being,’ said the lead researcher

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Nintendo Switch Trailer

An Oxford University study has suggested that video games can provide mental health benefits to players.

The study, which focused on Nintendo’s recent hit Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the EA shooting game Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, is being hailed as one of the first to incorporate actual play-time data into its metrics.

“This is about bringing games into the fold of psychology research that’s not a dumpster fire,” said Andrew Przybylski, the project’s lead researcher, to The Guardian. “This lets us explain and understand games as a leisure activity.

A total of 3,274 gamers took part in the research, all over the age of 18.

Nintendo provided data on playing times to the researchers, while EA also passed along certain in-game performance information, including achievements, and emoticons players had used. The participants were then asked about their reaction to the experiences.

Przybylski described the study as a “quest to figure out” whether data collected by games companies is “vaguely useful for academic and health policy research”.

The study reveals “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.”

The research will also hopefully provide insight into the potential mental health dangers of games, however.

“I’m very confident that if the research goes on, we will learn about the things that we think of as toxic in games,” Przybylski said, “and we will have evidence for those things as well.”

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