Gaming to have ‘positive impact’ on Middle East mental health after new Oxford University study

Regular players reported greater “wellbeing” when surveyed by researchers

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Riyadh – :

Experts have hailed the positive impact of gaming on Middle East mental health after new Oxford University research revealed regular players report greater “wellbeing”. It comes after streaming service Twitch reported a surge in Arabic-language viewers during the COVID pandemic, pointing to rising levels of interest across the region. It is now hoped that the combined effects of more players and proven benefits for mental health will result in gaming making a positive impact on wellbeing in the Middle East.

Commenting on the research, Sarmad Ahmad, founder of Bahrain-based mental health platform Saaya Health, said: “This Oxford University research demonstrates that it is often the most unexpected factors impacting mental health and that technology is playing a critical role in wellness across the region.

“Gaming not only strengthens players’ cognitive skills and problem-solving abilities, but it also offers a social opportunity through online multiplayer modes.

“This has been especially critical during the COVID pandemic, enabling those staying at home to maintain a link to the outside world while building on Minecraft, battling monsters on Fortnite or rooting out enemies in Among Us.

“We expect to see long-term mental health benefits from the Middle East’s gaming boom, and countries across the region will be paying close attention to enabling such positive developments.”

Oxford University’s study used data from 518 players of “Plants vs. Zombies” and 2,756 players of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”. Developers shared anonymous data about playing habits, and researchers surveyed the gamers separately about their wellbeing.

According to a recent white paper from leading internet company Tencent and Pubg Mobile – one of the region’s most popular mobile games – the MENA gaming market will be worth some US $6 billion by 2021, up from US $4.8 billion in 2019. And the latest data from streaming platform Twitch shows that Arabic-language are on an upward trend.

In September, the platform recorded 317,265 Arabic-language viewers, while in October the numbers jumped 30.18% to 413,000. This has contributed to a total of 3.4 million viewers so far this year, with the figures set to rise further during November and December following the launch of the hotly anticipated Playstation 5.

In the Middle East, GCC nations are seeking to woo game developers with dedicated digital policies and access to advanced digital infrastructure.

In Bahrain, international and local game developers and gamers can benefit from Amazon Web Services’ first data centre region in the Middle East and Africa – and develop bespoke products for the 400 million plus consumers across the Arabic-speaking MENA market.

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