Issue No. 1 | January 2021

By Morgan D. Schut

The increase of videogame use, once scorned, has been positively linked to mental health during the pandemic.  Is this a positive link from 2020 that might stick?

According to Verizon, videogame internet traffic increased in America by 75% in March.  According to everyone who tried to get a Nintendo Switch or PS5 for Christmas, there was likely no change in this increased usage from March to December 2020. 

Contrary to what we thought we knew about videogame screen time, a new study from the University of Oxford found a small positive relation between game play and well-being in a study conducted in August and September 2020 with over 2,500 players.  The study measured the amount of time spent playing games and measured the players’ well-being over a two-week period.  The study surveyed how often each player reported experiencing six positive and six negative feelings over that time period.  The researchers found that people who played the games for longer reported feeling better, on average, than those who barely played at all.   Specifically, “it found that certain feelings provided by video games, such as a sense of freedom and competence, improved the players’ sense of well-being while they played.”  It also found that the players had “a greater feeling of social connection from playing with others in the game.”  Each of these were linked to the players’ mood boost.  Still, the study stopped short from making any direct links between videogame play and well-being.

We’ll be interested to see how, if at all, studies like this will drive governmental regulations and the World Health Organization on providing guidance on the use of video games and more broadly, screen time, as the use of devices has become a constant part of our daily lives over the past twenty years.  And while we’re [clearly] not scientists, we hypothesize that we can put the videogame, like many other pastimes, in the “healthy moderation” bin, and hope that we can satiate our human needs for social connection in real life sooner rather than later.

Sources:Daily chart – Playing video games in lockdown can be good for mental health | Graphic detail | The Economist ; PsyArXiv Preprints | Video game play is positively correlated with well-being

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