Saturday science subject: Games and well-being

— 4:52 PM on February 3, 2007

Some politicians and organizations claim video games are to blame for violent behavior, but according to a new theory, games may in fact be quite good for us. The Scientific American quotes researchers at Florida-based think tank Immersyve and the University of Rochester who say playing video games satisfies "deep psychological needs," including independence, achievement, and connectedness to others.

In the first study, [the researchers] had 89 people play a simple game involving jumping to different platforms. In the second phase, the researchers compared the experience of 50 people who played two 3-D adventure games, one very popular and one less so. In the third study, 58 people tried four different games, while in the fourth the researchers surveyed 730 members of an online gaming community who were experienced in playing "massively multiplayer online" games.

Players' enjoyment of games depended on whether the games made them feel competent and independent, and, in the case of multiplayer games, connected to other players. Players who enjoyed their experience showed increases in well-being, self-esteem, and vitality after playing, while those whose needs weren't satisfied reported lowered vitality and mood.

According to Immersyve's Dr. Scott Rigby, overcoming challenges in games "can be a healthy way of coping when opportunities for feeling independent or competent are scarce in the real world."
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