Does Playing Video Games Make You Happier?


The Oxford Internet Institute of Oxford University, published research on their findings on the effects of playing video games and ones well being. With lockdowns going back into effect in several countries this holiday season, OII wanted to find the link between mental health and how the amount of time playing games affect the player.

They worked with Nintendo and EA on gathering data from players play time from Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, respectively.  Essentially the article states:

“These experiences during play may be even more important than the actual amount of time a player invests in games and could play a major role in the well-being of players.”

OII does state though that despite some positives, if ones real world situation isn’t so great or itself negative, that games don’t have a significant positive impact on ones wellbeing. Also, one’s experience can be affected by external factors such as the social aspect of dealing with other players like in Animal Crossing. Sometimes social doesn’t mean more fun.  You can read more about the report here and here.

This got me thinking though:

Do video games make you happier?

One of the articles linked above stated that even though playing games can make you happier, when the social aspect is involved, it can actually change the game experience for the worse times. This made me think about when I was really into Overwatch back in late 2016 through 2017. I loved the game, its variety of characters, and the strategies when it came to winning. I’m not really an athletic person or was super competitive growing up, so Overwatch was up my alley and became my “sport”.

The OG Crew before all those newcomers jumped into the roster. My mains were Pharah, Mercy, Junkrat and Attack Torbjorn. Yeah, ATTACK TORB.

The OG Crew before all those newcomers jumped into the roster. My mains were Pharah, Mercy, Junkrat and Attack Torbjorn. Yeah, ATTACK TORB.

The one thing I hated was when I would play with randoms who didn’t focus on the objective. My fun experience would quickly turn sour and I would hate playing the game. My win was in their hands. We’d lose and I would just be upset the rest of the night. There was nothing wrong with the game, just that the social aspect ruined it for me. Shortly after, I stopped playing the game because there’s only so many times you can go to bed pissed (some of you know what I’m talking about).

So, are games with social aspects like online multiplayer bad?  No, I don’t think they are.

For many people, multiplayer games have created and fostered long time friendships and even marriages. Video games have kept a lot of people connected before and especially during the Coronavirus pandemic. To me, that sounds like a positive thing during these crazy times. We all need a little more escapism, relaxation and connection that isn’t just through a Zoom meeting. Yes, the engagement of others can change the game experience for better or worse. Like when I play games like Overcooked or Among Us with friends, despite the rollercoaster of emotions while playing, I end up having a good time.

I wonder how many friendships, relationships and families this game has destroyed?

I wonder how many friendships, relationships and families this game has destroyed?

I enjoy playing single player games more now. For me, it’s the immersion of being in those worlds and being the lead role. Everything is on you, it’s a 1 on 1 relationship since you get to dive deeper into what the developers have created. I’ve gotten completely lost in the Norse mythology of God of War and the story of an older Kratos and his son, Atreus; swinging through the skyscrapers and beating baddies as Spider-Man in my hometown of New York City; or learning about family secrets in What Remains of Edith Finch. These experiences temporarily removed me from the current state of the real world and into theirs. There is though, a point of diminishing return, in some games that may have very challenging missions or difficulties so the immersion lessens but that’s up to the players discretion what they find enjoyable.

I dare you to play this beautiful game and not tear up once from beginning to end. The story is amazing. Play it if you haven’t already.

I dare you to play this beautiful game and not tear up once from beginning to end. The story is amazing. Play it if you haven’t already.

Ultimately, I think determining happiness from games is subjective and dependent on the person, their mental state at the time and the criteria they have for what makes a game good to them. There’s a lot to learn about the effects of video games and mental health, so I can’t wait to see what more research comes out about that. I can definitely say that gaming has given me and millions of people around the world the joy of escapism and something to look forward to. A lot of people share this digital pastime with their friends, family and partners which brings more people into the awesome realm of video games. To me, that’s what happiness is about.

Now excuse me, I have a backlog to kill and a new world to dive into!

What about you? Do video games make you happy? If so, what kinds and what about video games bring you joy?