Is gaming “good” or “bad” for you? Some studies have found that gamers are more likely to be social and college educated than non-gamers, and others have found that some can improve visuospatial processing and memory. On the flip side, some have found that playing violent video games could increase aggression, but equally others have challenged this. The literature is pretty mixed.
Now, adding to this, a new Oxford University study has gathered a large amount of data on young people that suggest those indulging in a small amount of video gaming every day are more likely to be better adjusted than those who don’t play video games at all, or those who play them for several hours per day.
As described in the journal Pediatrics, researchers recruited almost 5,000 young people, half male and half female, between the ages of 10-15 years old. The participants were drawn from a nationally representative study of UK households. In order to investigate both the positive and negative effects of gaming, the researchers asked the participants a variety of questions. They first gauged how much time they spent playing video games each day and then asked various questions about the participants’ lives, for example satisfaction with life and how well they got on with peers.
The researchers found that young people spending more than half of their daily free time playing video games tended to be less well adjusted, which could possibly be because they’re not engaging in as many enriching activities. However, when compared with those that play games very frequently or not at all, those that played video games for less than an hour per day were more likely to report that they were satisfied with their lives, and also showed higher levels of prosocial behavior.
Interestingly, they also found that the “everything in moderation” mantra may not apply here. The researchers report that playing a moderate amount (1-3 hours per day) had no observed effect, positive or negative, on the participants. Furthermore, the positive effects observed in those playing < 1 hour, and the negative effects found in those that play > 3 hours, were found to be small and certainly overshadowed by more “enduring” factors such as family situation and school relationships.
Of course, since the researchers are only looking at associations, they cannot definitively prove that it is the video gaming that is causing these positive and negative effects. It’s possible that there was another variable or even a number of other factors that were not taken into account in the study that could also contribute to the observed effects.
Nevertheless, the researchers would like to continue the work by looking at the specific attributes of the games that could perhaps be causing beneficial or harmful effects in users.
[Header image "Game Over," by jDevaun, via Flickr, used in accordance with CC BY-ND 2.0]