We may never fully know how video games affect our well-being

We may never fully know how video games affect our well-being

The moral panic surrounding video games has persisted in a way that past entertainment-induced panics, such as those surrounding rock music and television, have not. But the evidence does not exist.

Media reports that the perpetrators of mass shootings from the mid-1990s onward were avid gamers, along with a series of studies beginning in the early 2000s, fueled concerns that violent games make people more aggressive. These reports indicate that participants “punished” opponents longergave the taste testers larger doses of hot sauceand more likely it will guess the aggressive words such as “exploding” in a word completion task after playing violent games. But other researchers have since questioned how effective these studies really were in measuring violent behavior.

A 2020 meta-analysis Royal Society Open Science, which reviewed 28 studies from previous years, found no evidence for a long-term link between aggressive video games and youth aggression. Lower-quality studies that did not use standardized or well-validated measures, it found, were more likely to exaggerate the effects of gaming on player aggression, while higher-quality studies tended to find negligible effects.

The same pattern was repeated for studies linking video games to poor mental health, which tended to report smaller effects when they used objective data on game duration (as the OII study did) rather than relying on participants’ subjective self-reports, he says. Peter Etchells, professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, who thinks that for the last 20 to 30 years studies on games have not had a consistent handle on what they were trying to measure or how to do it.

“New studies like this may help draw a line under the whole ‘Are video games good or bad for us?’ because it was and always has been the wrong question,” he says. “It’s like asking ‘Is food bad for our waistlines?’ That’s a stupid question.”

“I hope we can be better at not thinking about it in terms of ‘Are video games, are video games bad?’ but thinking about that gray area in between,” he adds. “Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.”

Przybylski was among a group of academics who wrote write WHO in 2016, arguing against the “premature” inclusion of gaming disorder in its ICD guidelines, citing the low quality of the research base and the fact that scientists have failed to reach a consensus. Six years later, not much has changed, and researchers are still divided about the extent to which gaming addiction might differ from substance addiction or gambling, for example.

An interesting next step would be to focus on all the participants who demonstrate problematic behavior in OII’s study to see how you can teach or support them, says Tony van Rooij, a senior researcher at the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands who focuses on gaming, gambling, and digital balance. Another worth studying, he says, are the predatory business models game makers use to pressure player behavior, including encouraging them to make microtransactions to skip frustrating levels, play at certain times, or log in daily to avoid missing out. to something.

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