Video games get a bad reputation for allowing people to sit around and for potentially inspiring violent behaviors. Despite this, for many people video games are a major form of social interaction and cooperation building. Because of these two perspectives, a consensus has not been reached on whether video games impede or benefit well-being. A study published in Royal Society Open Science suggests that both sides may be wrong and video games may not impact well-being at all.
Video games are a very popular pastime, especially among adolescent boys. Due to their popularity, they have the power to have major effects on people that could potentially be harmful. There is concern about addicting qualities, waning mental and physical health, and violent tendencies.
Additionally, there are potential benefits in socialization, cooperation, and attention to detail. Past research on video games relationship to well-being has been mixed and not properly adequate to draw concrete solutions from. This study seeks to address from limitations of past studies by using a naturalistic sample to assess well-being in video game players.
For their study, Matti Vuorre and colleagues utilized data from 38,935 players from 7 game publishers through 3 waves of data collection. Email recruitment targeted English-speaking players in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States. Participants completed an online survey and were contacted approximately two weeks later to complete another wave.
Participants were 77% male and had a median age of 34 years old. Researchers collected data about gameplay for two weeks prior for all participants, which included duration of each session. Participants completed measures on well-being and motivational experiences.
Results showed that video games did not have a significant impact on participants affect. Differences in play time did not lead to any notable changes in life satisfaction. The analyses performed for this study suggest that video games have a very small impact on most people’s well-being and that well-being has little to no impact on people’s tendency to play video games.
“Across six weeks, seven games and 38,935 players, our results suggest that the most pronounced hopes and fears surrounding video games may be unfounded: time spent playing video games had limited if any impact on well-being. Similarly, well-being had little to no effect on time spent playing,” the researchers said.
The study also assessed motivation experienced during video game playing, with results showing that intrinsic motivation is positively related to well-being, while extrinsic motivation is negatively related to well-being.
“Policymakers, healthcare professionals and game developers urgently need to know if video games influence players’ well-being. We provided evidence on the causal impacts of play on well-being using objectively logged game-play behaviour. Our results show that the impact of time spent playing video games on well-being is probably too small to be subjectively noticeable and not credibly different from zero,” the researchers concluded.
This study took steps into addressing limitations of previous studies on video game playing. Despite this, it has limitations to note as well. This study was only able to pull participants from 7 different games, leaving millions of players unassessed, which limits generalizability. Additionally, duration of play was the main variable studied for video game playing behavior, but it is quite broad. Future research could focus on more nuanced variables.
“Going forward, it is essential to cast a wider and deeper empirical and theoretical net and focus on the qualities of play experiences, in-game events, and players for whom effects may vary. Until then, limiting or promoting play based on time alone appears to bear neither benefit nor harm,” the researchers said.
The study, “Time spent playing video games is unlikely to impact well-being“, was authored by Matti Vuorre, Niklas Johannes, Kristoffer Magnusson, and Andrew K. Przybylski.