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

The moral panic surrounding video games has lingered in a way that previous entertainment-fueled panics, such as those surrounding rock music and TV, did not. But the proof is not there.

The media reports that the perpetrators of mass shootings from the mid-1990s were avid gamers, coupled with a slew of investigations from the early 2000s, raising concerns that violent games made people more aggressive. These reports showed that participants “punishedopponents for longergave taste testers larger doses of hot sauceand were more likely to guess aggressive words such as “explode” in word completion task after playing violent games. But other researchers have since wondered how effective these studies really were at measuring violent behavior.

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

The same pattern has been repeated with studies linking video games to poor mental health, which typically report smaller effects once they use objective game time data (as the OII study did) rather than relying on participants’ subjective self-reports. says Peter Etchells, a professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, who thinks that over the past 20 to 30 years, game studies haven’t had a consistent handle on what they were trying to measure or how to do it.

“New studies like this one could help draw a line under this whole thing: ‘Are video games good or bad for us?’ line, because it is and has always been the wrong question to ask,” he says. “It’s like asking ‘Is food bad for our waistline?’ It’s a stupid question.”

“My hope is that we get better at it by 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 belonged to a group of academics who wrote to write to WHO in 2016 argued against the “premature” inclusion of gambling addiction in the ICD guidelines, citing the low quality of the research base and the fact that scientists had not reached a consensus. Six years later, not much has changed and researchers are still divided about the extent to which addiction to games can differ from addiction to substances or gambling, for example.

An interesting next step would be to look at all participants who exhibit problematic behavior in the OII’s research to see how they can be coached or supported, says Tony van Rooij, senior researcher at the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands who focuses on on gaming, gambling, and digital balance. Another interesting area of ​​study, he says, is the predatory business models game makers use to put pressure on players’ behavior, including encouraging them to make microtransactions to skip frustrating levels, play at set times, or log in daily. to make sure they don’t miss anything. on something.

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