People have never played video games so often and many stakeholders are concerned that this activity can be harmful to gamers. So far, the study has not had enough data to test whether these concerns are justified and whether lawmakers should act to regulate video game play time. We try to provide much needed evidence with adequate data. While the previous study should have been based on player-reported gaming behavior, we partnered with two game companies, Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America, to obtain information about real-world gaming behavior. We asked Plantsv.Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons players about their feelings, motives, and needs while playing, and combined their responses with telemetry data (i.e. gameplay footage). Contrary to many fears that excessive playtime will lead to addiction and poor mental health, we found a small positive association between gaming and emotional well-being. Need satisfaction and motivation during play did not interact with play time but were independently related to well-being. Our findings advance this area in two important ways. First, we show that cooperation with industry partners can be carried out in accordance with high academic standards, ethically and transparently. Second, we provide politicians with much-needed evidence of the link between gambling and mental health.
Video games are an extremely popular and lucrative pastime. Last year, the revenue from the gaming industry was higher than from the film industry , and the number of people claiming to play games has never been higher . Around the world, the rise of gaming as the dominant form of recreation and socializing has raised important questions about the potential impact of gaming on well-being. These questions concern both gamers and parents, politicians and scientists: billions of people play video games, and regardless of whether this activity has a positive or negative impact on well-being, games can have global health consequences. Therefore, an empirical understanding of how games can help or hurt gamers is a priority for all stakeholders. Gaming can be health neutral, and adopting policies that overly regulate gaming will limit human rights to gaming and freedom of expression . Decisions to regulate video games or promote them as a means of improving health are important and should not be made without sound scientific evidence.
Unfortunately, almost three decades of research on potential links between video games and negative outcomes, including aggression, addiction, well-being and cognition, have not led us to a consensus or evidence-based policy because they are reliable, reproducible and environmentally sound. little research. and far apart (for example, [4,5]). In recent years, researchers and policymakers have shifted their focus from concerns about violent video games and aggression (e.g. ) to concerns about the relationship between the amount or nature of time people spend on video games and well-being (e.g. in the UK ). ). In other words, they are interested in the impact of gaming behavior on subjective well-being and, consequently, on mental health. However, rather than measuring such behavior directly, the studies relied on self-reported engagement. Historically, this methodological decision has been made for practical reasons: first, self-reporting is a relatively easy way to collect gambling data. Secondly, the video game industry has in the past been hesitant to collaborate with independent scientists. As time goes by, it has become increasingly clear that self-reporting by default is not sustainable. Recent evidence suggests that self-reports of digital behavior are notoriously inaccurate and biased, limiting the conclusions we can draw from research on gaming time and well-being [8,9].
The lack of accurate behavioral data is a serious shortcoming that deprives health policy makers of the high quality data they need to make informed decisions about possible rules for the video game industry . Various solutions have been proposed, including active and passive forms of participation in
Although there have been calls for more direct measurements of video game behavior, these efforts have stalled because scientists do not have the resources or access to the data required for independent scientific research. For example, on the issue of social media use and well-being, in January 2019, a select UK parliamentary committee called on “social media companies to provide high-level anonymous data for research purposes” . A year later, another report from the committee on addictive and immersive digital technology recommended that the government “require game companies to share aggregate player data with researchers” . There is a need for collaboration between gaming companies and independent scientists, but we are not aware of any successful collaborative research on player wellbeing. Game developers have their own experience with directly measuring video game engagement using telemetry, the automated recording of user interactions with content. But so far, attempts to contact scientists with experience combining such telemetry data with methods that assess subjective well-being (such as surveys or experience sampling) have been futile, and it is not clear whether data collected commercially can be applied for scientific purposes. .
Collaboration with industry partners promises not only to make objective player behavior available for independent analysis; it also provides an opportunity to address a related problem that has plagued game research for decades: a lack of transparency and rigor. Many studies in the quantitative social sciences do not provide data to others for independent verification and extension of results (eg ). The sharing of resources and data contributes to the creation of a more reliable knowledge base [28,29]. It also gives other scientists, the public and politicians the opportunity to better assess the validity of research [30,31]. The lack of transparency allows selective reporting and thus contributes to unreliable results that are not routinely replicated (eg [32–34]). The work of Elson & Przybylski  showed that this question regularly arises in research on the impact of technology, including video game research. Karras et al.  summarized systematic reviews of gaming disorder and found a high rate of selective reporting in the literature. To increase public confidence in their findings, scientists have an obligation to work as transparently as possible, especially when they collaborate with industry . Greater transparency will be a valuable tool to inform policy  and heated academic debates related to the global impact of games on health.