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It’s official: gaming is good for us.

New research from Oxford University has delivered a surprising finding this week: that time spent playing games is positively associated with wellbeing.

The new study is the first of its kind. Rather than asking players how much they play, it uses industry data on actual play time for video games Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The study suggests that experiences of competence and social connection with others through play may contribute to people’s wellbeing. Those who derived enjoyment from playing were more likely to report experiencing positive wellbeing.

These experiences during play may be even more important than the actual amount of time a player invests in games and could play a major role in the well-being of players.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and lead author of the study, says: “Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being. In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”

This is good news for an industry that has benefited from lockdowns the world over. With more people at home, more of the time, more of us have been gaming – and advertisers are realising that the ‘myth’ of the teenage boy gamer is just that. 

Activision Blizzard Media, for instance, has identified six different gaming personas in its research ‘Gallery of the Gamer’ – a global research project that takes in player demographics, platforms and psychographics.

It found:  

  • Less than half of all gamers identify as gamers — over 60% of the gamers surveyed responded “no” or ‘unsure’ when asked if they were a gamer
  • Though gamers are often stereotyped as young males playing on consoles in their parents’ basements, only two of the six gamer personas identified resemble the stereotypical image of a gamer
  • The majority of gamers play across multiple platforms. Mobile gamers, typically thought of as single-platform users, often play on console and PC

Small wonder that TIGA, the association representing the UK video games industry, reports that the UK video games development sector has grown to record levels.  Their research shows that in the period from November 2018 to April 2020, the game development sector’s annual contribution to the UK’s GDP increased from £1.8 billion to £2.2 billion.