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Video games can improve mental health. Let’s stop seeing them as a guilty pleasure | Keza MacDonald

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November 23, 2020 at 09:00AM

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Many still regards video games as a waste of time or downright sinister. But the real story is very different

After an Oxford study this week showed that people who play more video games report greater wellbeing, the headlines reflected a sense of stunned incredulity. “Playing video games BENEFITS mental health,” exclaimed MailOnline, while Business Insider went with “Video games might actually be good for you.” My dad sent me a clipping from the Times, as he has done every time he’s seen video games mentioned in the paper for the past 15 years, that began with the words “parents beware”. Who’d have thunk it?

But why the surprise? For anyone who actually plays video games, this is hardly news. Video games are fun and interesting, and doing fun, interesting things makes you happy. Would we need a study to show that watching a few episodes of a beloved TV show makes you feel good, or that sitting down with a good book is relaxing? This year especially, video games have been an essential form of escapism and therapy for millions, and this study proves that I was hardly the only one devotedly playing Animal Crossing to decompress after an intense day of lockdown parenting. And that’s not to mention the 11-year-olds whose only meaningful social contact with other kids for months was playing Roblox together.

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