Feeling Stressed? Play A Video Game, Says Science

If you're below the age of forty, you'd have been a child when video games first started to make inroads into our daily lives. You might have had a Nintendo, an Atari, or a Commodore 64 at home to play video games on. Over time, as technology became more advanced and games became more sophisticated, you might have branched out from there and bought a gaming PC, a Super Nintendo, or even the first generation of the Sony PlayStation during the mid-1990s. During all of that time, you probably found yourself in constant arguments with your parents about how much time you spent playing games. Your generation of gamers was told that video games were bad for you. Now, as we begin the 2020s, we've learned that the opposite is true.

In defiance of everything that every frustrated 1990s parent told their children, a new study has suggested that playing video games is good for your well being. There's even some evidence that video games are good for your mental health. This is the opinion from a team of researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute - a department within England’s prestigious Oxford University. The researchers are well-qualified people who are better placed than almost anybody to make such an assessment - but as you might have guessed, the proclamation comes with more than a few caveats attached.

Not every type of game can be classed as being good for your well being. There's still some evidence that spending a long time playing fighting games can make you more aggressive and that the wrong type of game can make you become addicted. The researchers certainly wouldn't recommend spending more time and money on an online slots website than you can afford to part with. Although online slots aren't thought of as video games by the majority of players, they still fall within the same category. There isn't necessarily a negative consequence that comes with playing Casino Games so long as players stick within their limits and play for entertainment rather than dependency, but that's not the same as saying that the games are good for you. We're unlikely ever to see a credible university suggest that online slots or casino websites are good for people's well being, nor any other game that's associated with addiction.

Rather than looking at people playing high-octane games that demand huge amounts of attention and emotional investment, the researchers focused their efforts on just two games - "Animal Crossing" by Nintendo and "Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville," which is made by Electronic Arts. The latter game is considered to be a niche title, but you might recall a lot of hype when the latest version of "Animal Crossing," entitled "New Horizons," was released earlier in 2020. It attracted a massive amount of mainstream attention, and at one point boasted a number of celebrity players including Brie Larson, Chrissy Teigen, and Elijah Wood. This surge in popularity meant there was an enormous amount of data for the researchers to plug themselves into and begin to draw conclusions, which is precisely what they’ve now done.

The study was not a complicated one. The team at Oxford received data from the game manufacturers regarding how much time each player in the study had spent playing the game and then sent those players short surveys to complete about their emotional state immediately after finishing a gaming session. The results showed that spending a little time playing a game that made players happy resulted in a small but significant improvement in their general mental state. This is the first time that such survey data has been correlated with accurate records of how long players have spent playing any particular game as opposed to estimates collected directly from the players, which tend to be inaccurate. More than 3200 gamers agreed to take part in the study.

While the study might be basic, it challenges a standard behavioral tactic that's often employed by parents who want to redirect the attention of their children back towards homework or to chores they're due to perform around the home. While homework and chores are important, the findings of the study suggest that depriving people of video game playing time might be counterproductive in terms of their mood or their general mental state - especially if they have no other leisure activities or hobbies. The findings need not only be applied to adults, though. Many people feel guilty about playing video games when they think that they should have more important tasks to be attending do. This study tells us that they shouldn't feel any such guilt so long as other essential duties are attended to. There's nothing to suggest that video games can't be incorporated as part of a healthy lifestyle so long as the time spent playing them isn't disproportionate.

The data collected during the project would be meaningless if there wasn't further data available to act as context. In this case, there was. The survey questions about mood and mental state were juxtaposed against responses to the same questions provided by a different sample group who hadn't spent any time playing video games at all. The results overwhelmingly demonstrated that people who played games felt calmer and happier than people who hadn't. These findings contradict studies that have been performed over the past four decades, which have consistently suggested that the more time people spend playing video games, the more unhappy they become. Professor Andrew Przybylski, who headed up the research team, believes that he has an explanation for this.

The games of the 1980s and 1990s were played either with one other person sat around a television screen or by people playing alone. The games of the 21st century are not. They're far more likely to be played online with people all over the world, which gives modern video games a social aspect of a kind that never existed in the past. The professor believes that online interactions in gentle games like "Animal Crossing" fulfill the same basic social needs as people meeting in real life and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. However, he does stress that more data needs to be obtained before any final conclusions can be drawn.

So there we have it. Ignore all the received wisdom that’s been imparted to you for your whole life up until this point. Video games can be good for you - so there’s nothing wrong with picking up a controller right now and playing to your heart’s content!

Mathieu Blake


Mathieu Blake - Internet Entrepreneur, loves technology, sports, the Montreal Canadiens, Poker, Poker chips, current events and travel. You will often find him Writing about different topics that interest him on websites and blogs. To submit an article, contact the website directly.