Academics, video game makers team up in rare collaboration

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan, 23, 2020 file photo, Nintendo Switch game consoles are on display at Nintendo's official store in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Time spent playing video games can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University. The finding comes as video game sales this year have boomed as more people are stuck at home because of the pandemic and many countries have once again imposed limits on public life. The paper released Monday, NOv. 16, 2020 is based on survey responses from people who played two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan, 23, 2020 file photo, Nintendo Switch game consoles are on display at Nintendo's official store in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Time spent playing video games can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University. The finding comes as video game sales this year have boomed as more people are stuck at home because of the pandemic and many countries have once again imposed limits on public life. The paper released Monday, NOv. 16, 2020 is based on survey responses from people who played two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LONDON – A study by Oxford University researchers on how playing video games affects mental health used data from video game makers, marking what the authors say is a rare collaboration between academics and the game industry.

Lack of transparency from game makers has long been an issue for scientists hoping to better understand player behaviors.

The paper released Monday by the Oxford Internet Institute comes as video game sales this year have boomed as more people are stuck at home because of the pandemic and many countries have once again imposed limits on public life.

The findings are based on survey responses from people over 18 who played two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The study used data provided by the game makers, Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America, on how much time the respondents spent playing, unlike previous research that relied on imprecise estimates from the players. The video game industry has previously been reluctant to work with independent scientists, the paper noted.

Such partnerships might be needed for future research on the booming video game industry.

Academics “need broader and deeper collaborations with industry to study how games impact a wider, and more diverse, sample of players over time,” said Andrew Przybylski, the institute's director of research. “We’ll need more and better data to get to heart of the effects of games, for good or ill, on mental health.”

The research was funded by the Huo Family Foundation, a London-based foundation, and the Economic and Social Research Council, a U.K.-government funded public body.