Video games boost wellbeing

One study has recently linked gaming to happiness, but why does it go against 40 years of previous findings?
24 November 2020

Interview with 

Andrew Przybylski, Experimental Psychologist and Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute


Two children happily playing games.


Chris Berrow talks to Andrew Przybylski -  an experimental psychologist and Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, who authored the study linking gaming to happiness.

Andy - Well, I mean, in a funny kind of way, this is definitely the kind of study that should have probably been done, you know, 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Um, social scientists tend to fall back when they can... on asking questions, uh, of their participants. You know, whether you're interested in aggression or addiction, uh, or, or maybe even the positive benefits of play, we haven't really bothered to directly measure the behavior of players themselves.

Chris - Do you believe that the fact that there's a positive trend now in that people are gaming for longer and, and I suppose reporting feeling happier that has anything to do with this year in lockdown and pandemics and people being more disconnected this year?

Andy - Yeah, it, it, it might, and it, it also might have something to do with the fact that we only looked at two games out of, you know, a few million that are out there in the wild and, and the games that we looked at, we looked at them specifically because they were social, uh, that a social component to them and they were internet connected. So there's probably a question about how much these findings would generalize, you know, whether or not it would just be, uh, all a mess when it comes to the amount of time people play games and their wellbeing, but really, uh, this is why more research of, of a higher quality is needed. 

Chris - What would you like to see done next in regards to research in this field? Because it seems like as you suggest that there's a long way to go...

Andy - Nintendo of America and EA they really stuck their necks out, you know, that tiny, positive correlation we found, uh, between playtime and wellbeing that could have easily gone in the other direction. And then they would have been facing a lot of really bad press. Um, and so I think it's, uh, it's it's, and they didn't know what the results were. I, I should actually make that very clear. Um, we, we collected the data in such a way that, that for the surveys, the people's wellbeing, we, we collected and stored that here at Oxford, and they had data on telemetry, but we're the ones who kind of married it together, uh, with, with a unique identifiers that the games companies couldn't control the results, or, you know, they couldn't exert control, not since they wanted to obviously, but, um, but no, th th the big next step obviously, is, is involving more companies and following a larger, more representative sample of players, uh, over time.

Chris - And was this small, positive correlation, big enough to get excited about cause obviously everyone is getting excited about it, but in your opinion, do you think it's enough to go off?

Andy - No, your parents shouldn't be going out buying consoles on the basis of it. Uh, and, and it, it, it really, it really should be a very strong cautionary now, uh, for, for my colleagues in other areas of, of psychology, who would go on to say, uh, to make very strong unsubstantiated claims about the negative effects. 


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