Playing games makes us happier

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This study by the University of Oxford analyzes the impact of two famous game titles: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo) and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville (Electronic Arts) up the player’s morale. And the results show that playing time is associated with happier players.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a social life simulation game, the player is the only human character and the remaining members of the village are anthropomorphized animals. This game has no specific mission but directs players to experience living time in the village along with many nature-friendly activities such as fishing, growing more vegetables, picking flowers and catching butterflies, decorating houses and interact with animal characters (Sell radishes to raccoons to get rich, for example).

Animal Crossing: New Horizons trailer.

Plants vs Zombies is the most successful tower defense game in the world with a lifespan of more than 10 years. In the role of the host, the player will use different plants to prevent the zombies from breaking in and eating his brain.

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville trailer.

However, the study was limited to two games, and scientists have not yet clarified whether happiness is directly proportional to playing time.

Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the study, said that video games are not always harmful to health, but can also be caused by other psychological factors.

Research using data and surveys from 518 players Plants vs Zombies and 2756 players Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Game developers shared anonymous data on players’ habits, and scientists privately surveyed those people about their mental health. This is the first time game companies have shared industry data with scientists to study the impact of video games on players. Most of the previous research on this issue was based on self-reported play behavior, which was not very accurate. The study comes after years of debate over the impact of video games on young people’s mental health, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen sales of half of all titles skyrocket.

Game industry analysis firm Nielsen’s SuperData said the game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (released in March 2020) has been exceptionally successful. The game sold 5 million digital copies, the highest number of copies sold by a console title in a single month.


The researchers suggest that the experience of competence and social connection with others, even through the virtual world, also contributes to the player’s mental state and state.

However, the study only focused on two specific games, so the researchers did not draw conclusions about the impact of other game genres or platforms on players. Andrew Przybylski stressed that further research will be needed to determine exactly whether video games improve mental health. He believes that partnerships of this kind will provide accurate data to enhance our understanding of video games and provide policymakers with insights into how they can shape, improve bad for our health.

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