A large-scale study of changes to the quantity, quality, and distribution of video game play during the COVID-19 pandemic


Video game play has been framed both as protective factor and risk to mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted an objective analysis of changes to video game play during the pandemic to provide an empirical foundation to the fractured discourse surrounding play and mental health. Analyses of millions of players’ engagement with the 500 globally most popular games on the Steam platform indicated that the quantity of play had dramatically increased during key points of the pandemic; that those increases were more prominent for multiplayer games, suggesting that gamers were seeking out the social affordances of video game play; and that play had become more equally distributed across days of the week, suggesting increased merging of leisure activities with work and school activities. These data provide a starting point for empirically grounded discussions on video games during the pandemic, their uses, and potential effects.

Technology Mind and Behavior