Gaming can boost children’s wellbeing

Child in study about video games | Newsreel
A child is monitored while playing a video game in a QUT study. | Photo: Supplied by QUT

Children can benefit from playing video games, according to a recent QUT study.

Published in a UNICEF report on the impact of gaming, the study found playing video games could help boost children’s wellbeing by making them feel competent, empowered and socially connected to others.

The study, led by Professor Daniel Johnson, from the Brisbane university’s School of Computer Science and Games Research and Interaction Design Lab, used tracking equipment – such as heart rate sensors and eye tracking software – to monitor the children’s real-time responses to the video games.

Professor Johnson, who also works at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, said the approach was something that game designers might also be able to use to help them assess the impact of their games on child wellbeing.

The study involved 68 Brisbane children aged between seven and 13 and was funded by UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation.

“Video games are a regular part of children’s daily lives and yet we don’t know enough about children’s experiences as video game players,” Professor Johnson said.

“Our study collected data from children through gameplay sessions featuring two popular titles, Rocket League and LEGO Builder’s Journey.”

Researchers collected a variety of data including heart rate, galvanic skin response, facial expressions, and eye tracking, and recorded what the children said.

This data, in turn, was analysed and matched to human emotions linked to wellbeing.

“We found clear evidence that playing the two games positively contributing to children’s wellbeing in terms of eliciting competence, emotional regulation, self-actualisation, empowerment, creativity, and social connection,” Professor Johnson said.

“Both games had positive impacts on their wellbeing based on the responses we tracked.

“Our study demonstrated how collecting psychosocial data during gameplay can identify a wide range of emotional and physiological states in children.

Children involved in the study were also asked to help the researchers interpret the data, becoming ‘co-researchers’ as well as gamers.

“What set this study apart was our focus on empowering children as active participants in the research process,” Professor Johnson said.

“We centred children’s perspectives on the data by asking our participants to watch recordings of themselves playing the games and review the data we collected.

“This gave our research team extra insights into the children’s experiences.

“We found that children provided insightful reflections when they helped us interpret their data. They were comfortable disagreeing with the ‘conclusions of the computer’ and providing more context for the data we collected.”

Read the full report.

Professor Daniel Johnson. | Newsreel
Professor Daniel Johnson, from QUT's School of Computer Science and Games Research and Interaction Design Lab. | Photo: Supplied by QUT

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