Why one study could forever change gaming’s reputation.

By Sam Whitehead — Marketing Coordinator

For a variety of reasons, video games have always been a hot topic for the press. Negative connotations have surrounded the industry, from links to violence and addictions worse than smoking. However, in the modern world, consisting of a society in lockdown, is gaming’s often troubled reputation shifting once more?

While ‘boomers’ may continue to illustrate video games’ frightening influence, the University of Oxford claim something to the contrary. Interestingly, their new study claims video games are in fact “good for well-being”. Is this study video gaming’s knight in shining armour? Could video games forever cement themselves as a force for good? A quick glance down memory lane may prove this to be the case…


What can the past tell us?

Historically, new entertainment creates new concerns. In the 1930’s it was comic books, in the 80’s it was Dungeons & Dragons and now, it’s video games. In both their journeys to alter troubled perceptions, comic books and D&D battled through scores of bad press. Both mediums were accused of establishing a harmful culture for adolescence youths. Furthermore, censorship attempts were made and for comic books in the US, attempts were often successful.  

So, what happened to these icons of entertainment? Well, as time passed, attitudes changed.

Notably, in both these cases, another trend took hold of the youngster’s psyche and people simply forgot about their aggrievances. Interestingly, both comic books and D&D, did a full 180 within the media and were eventually praised for their creative nuances and effects on mental health, especially for younger generations. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s happening right now!


What does the gaming industry need to overcome?

In recent times, it has been gaming’s links to violence and mental well-being that has soured certain titles. There’s no doubt, ‘Grand Theft Auto’, was a factor in arguments censoring such video games, some even going as far as urging a total ban. As recently as 2019, Donald Trump used video games as a possible component of shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. As well as the violence link, the media argued it promoted addictive personalities, facilitated sexual harassment and has been associated to poor mental health.


So, what does the study tell us?

Admittedly, the recent Oxford University study stated that previously, “40 years of research had suggested the longer people played, the more unhappy they said they were.” However, the new study, which focused on two games: Nintendo's Animal Crossing and EA's Plants vs Zombies, issued different conclusions.

These were the key findings taken from the accounts of 3,274 gamers:

  • “Actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s wellbeing”
  • “A player’s subjective experiences during play might be a bigger factor for wellbeing than mere play time.”
  • “Players experiencing genuine enjoyment from the games experience more positive well-being”
  • “Findings align with past research suggesting people whose psychological needs weren’t being met in the ‘real world’ might report negative well-being from play.”


 What can we take from this?

The biggest take-away from the research, reflects the current state of social relations during a pandemic. Naturally, as human interaction has lessened, it only makes sense, or is fully understandable, that people feel their psychological needs are not being met in the ‘real world’. Now, more than ever before, people are seeking social connections online. Evidently, a cause for the positive results are the social features games such as Animal Crossing poses.

We believe the study echoes our society and it’s fascinating to understand the psychology of gamers. Even this year’s McDonalds Christmas advert, seems to frame gaming as a stress inducer rather than an element in a person’s stress relief. Ultimately, the research may not explore the connection between gaming and violence, but it is progress in framing gaming in its correct state of community and fun. It illustrates progress in the way gaming is portrayed.


Is there anything else we can do?

More research! Hopefully, this can be the beginning of the end of gaming’s occasional troubled reputation. To do this, developers must delve into the data. Gaming has associations that are of importance, way outside its main purpose of entertainment. Unquestionably, the gaming community is a concoction of relationship, stress, desires and aggrievance data, all waiting to be explored.

In summary, a higher confidence in gaming and distilling its links with various issues, will help the industry as a whole. Changing its reputation, like previous iterations of entertainment has done before, will highlight its potential as a stress reliever and a creative force for all who play.

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