A recent study by Oxford University has shown that video games can have a positive impact on our mental health.

Natalie Don, who is the SNP candidate for Renfrewshire North and West in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, is urging the Scottish Government to look into and support further studies that show video games can have a positive impact on our mental health.

The study, which focused on players of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, as well as EA’s Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, found that people who played more regularly reported greater wellbeing than those who played less.

The Oxford University team was able to link up psychological questionnaires with true records of time spent playing games. Previous studies carried out had tended to focus on self-reported time playing, which is weakly correlated with reality.

The findings of this study contrast with the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that have classed ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental illness. A diagnosis of gaming disorder is deemed appropriate for a person who, over a period of at least 12 months, lacks control over their gaming habits, prioritizes gaming over other interests and activities, and continues gaming despite its negative consequences.

The UK Government has also come under pressure in recent years to have stricter regulations on the gaming industry in the UK. Concerns over gaming disorder, the excessive violence and sexual content in games and the relationship video games have with gambling through such means as in game currencies, loot boxes and pay to win games.

Cllr Natalie Don, a self proclaimed avid gamer herself, is calling for more work to be done in Scotland, not on the negatives but on the positive impacts that video games can have for your mental health and well-being.

Cllr Don said “I was pleased to see the findings of this study, as an avid gamer myself I know first hand the positive impacts that video games have had on my own mental well being. The immersion and escapism that you can feel from tuning into your favourite game cannot be replaced and is a mental lifeline for many people.

“I enjoy playing video games and if done appropriately is no different to reading a book for enjoyment.”

She added: “3 billion people on the planet play video games. Many people will have been playing more than usual due to the pandemic. The video games industry has never been bigger and it’s important that if we are regulating it that we work with actual gamers to get it right and that we also look at the positives and don’t just focus on the negatives of playing the computer.”

“Scotland has a brilliant gaming industry of our own, famously working on the Grand Theft Auto games.
Employment in the Scottish video games industry grew by more than 17% between November 2018 and April 2020. Gaming is huge in Scotland and the more the industry grows the more opportunities that will become available for graduates wanting to get involved.”

“The Scottish Government has done and continues to do incredible trailblazing work on mental health here in Scotland. The pandemic has made clear the importance of looking after ourselves, and of keeping well.

“If we can look at ways in which we can improve people’s mental health through video games and the positives that come from it then we absolutely should. I believe this is an issue that Scotland could really lead the way forward in exploring. “