The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) published a report this week detailing the benefits gamers report around the world. The Power of Play 2023 Global Report collects findings from global surveys as well as several academic studies to detail the positive benefits to gamers around the world. The report’s findings show that gamers near-universally find gaming to have positive effects on their life, including reducing stress, assisting with feelings of isolation and helping them have fun.
More than half of the players report that games have helped them through difficult times in their lives, as well as providing them with an outlet for daily challenges. While there are some variations across regions, this remains consistent across most of them. Players also report having gained multiple skills while playing, including improved problem-solving and communication skills.
Stanley Pierre-Louis, the ESA’s president and CEO, said in a statement, “The Power of Play report affirms globally what we already knew to be true in the United States: video games have the power to transcend entertainment. The social and emotional benefits of video gameplay are felt by a global, diverse group of players that build communities and have the power to affect positive change in each other’s lives.”
Gaming and mental health
The largest part of the report was about the effects games can have on mental health — socialization in particular. Despite the number of respondents who say they play primarily by themselves (87%), an almost equally large number (67%) believe that games can be a vehicle for players meeting and making connections with each other. 42% of respondents report having met a significant other or spouse in games, and 46% report that games help them stay connected with their friends and family. One of the studies cited by the Power of Play report showed that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was particular effective at this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Across the board, players reported that gaming was an outlet to help them feel less stressed — the only surveyed regions where this wasn’t the primary cited mental health benefits were Poland and South Korea (those regions claimed that the human connection element was the primary benefit). The responses about gaming as an outlet were a bit more varied: 63% of gamers said that games make them happier while 64% say they provide a healthy outlet from everyday life, and which mattered more varied by region.
Other findings collected in the report suggest that this is a benefit across multiple age groups, from children aged 10-15 — who report that even a few minutes of playing a game reduces their stress levels — to adults aged 55+. They also suggest that gaming can be a vector for learning new skills and cognitive performance. Gamers surveyed for the report say that games have helped their creativity, science, technology and culture awareness.
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