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Review article, psychosocial impacts of mobile game on k12 students and trend exploration for future educational mobile games.

research paper about mobile games

  • 1 School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
  • 2 China Foreign Affairs University, Beijing, China
  • 3 School of Chemistry and Biomolecules Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
  • 4 Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
  • 5 School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore

Due to the popularity and advancement of 4G/5G networks, mobile games have already currently become profitable tools for major internet platforms. These games are even refined to cover almost all age groups of the population rather than the young people. Yet in the perception of the public, mobile games have always seemed to be associated with various derogatory terms such as interfering with learning, addiction, and violence. K12 students usually have less self-control capability, and they are undoubtedly the biggest advocates of mobile games. This paper summarizes the technological development of mobile games from the aspects of hardware and software in chronological order. The psychological and social problems that mobile games have brought to K12 students are analyzed from a neutral perspective. At the end of the paper, the future development of educational games and current limitations of mobile games are also given for the explorations of future trends of game-based education. This position paper aims to provide the insight of what psychosocial impacts that the current mobile games have on the student, and it may also serve as a reference for the how the game-based education has been developing according to the mobile technology wise.


Due to the popularity of smart terminals and the advancement of 5G networks, mobile games are currently the most popular type of games, as well as profitable tools for major internet platforms. Mobile games can be combined from different levels and content categories, covering different, personalities and preferences ( Martin et al., 2020 ). As a result mobile games are now refined to cover almost all age groups of the population, not just young people. Yet in the perception of the public, mobile games have always seemed to be associated with various derogatory terms such as interfering with learning, addiction and violence.

K12 students are refer to the students in the age group from Kindergarten (usually 5–6 years old) to Grade 12 (usually 17–18 years old) ( Kurt et al., 2022 ). Students in this age group usually have less self-control capability, and they are undoubtedly the biggest advocates of mobile game. When they play certain games for long periods of time their behavior and psychological state will be changed in a subtle way. The main issue is that mobile games may contain unhealthy contents such as pornography, violence, ignorance, superstition, etc. which implicitly affect the formation of the correct value system and the healthy development of their body and mind for these K12 students ( Destyanto et al., 2017 ). In addition, some young people indulge in mobile games due to lack of self-control, which not only result in harmful influence on their studies but also induces a series of negative social activities and social relationship ( Kurt et al., 2022 ).

The pioneers of communication science, Lazarsfeld and Merton, argued that modern mass media have a clear negative function of “psychoanesthesia.” Some violent mobile games reveal the nature of the “psychoanesthesia” function in another textual dimension: they create illusions through inexpensive and negative entertainment, thus eating away at the social mobility of those young people in an implicit cultural way ( Kurt et al., 2022 ). Craig Anderson found that the “psychoanesthetic” mechanism of violent mobile games increases the physiological arousal of aggressive behavior, cognition, emotions, and violent impulses, and reduces pro-social behavior in adolescents ( Elsherbiny and Al Maamari, 2021 ; Kurt et al., 2022 ). Accordingly, violent behavior has become the main “product component” of mobile games “inflicted” on adolescents. Moreover, its basic social manifestations can be summarized in four points: firstly, it creates and activates networks of thinking related to violent aggression; secondly, it weakens the inhibition process of violence; thirdly, the game’s violent reward rules allow aggressive behavior to be imitated and reinforced in the “mimetic environment;” and fourthly, the binary values of right and wrong in games can reduce young people’s empathy ( Elsherbiny and Al Maamari, 2021 ).

Mobile games do not only imply a behavior, but also contain a value, which might be sometimes anti-social in nature. Violent mobile games on the Internet may portray the grandeur, hooliganism, and banditry of triad bosses and gangsters, contributing to the psychology of adolescent violence. In particular, the propaganda of “materialism” in violent online games can easily lead young people to abandon their original morals and values, so that the “money first” mentality gradually seeps into their minds and leads to a distorted way of thinking and personality.

This position paper therefore infer the future development of educational games from existing mobile games, and shares some insights into the current limitations, and critically analyses the above issues from a neutral perspective, discusses the psychological impacts and social problems that mobile games may cause for K12 students ( Arteaga et al., 2012 ). It also offers the future development of mobile games and the limitations of current educational games in order to explore future trends in gamified education. This paper can also be considered as a reference on how gamified education is evolving in light of mobile technology.

Technological Development of Mobile Game

From feature phone to smartphone.

Nowadays, almost everyone who owns a smartphone has been exposed to mobile games at one time or another. It may be a mini-game embedded in a web page or app, or a large 3D online game like “Arena of Alor” or “Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds” ( De Gloria et al., 2014 ). These games have a huge update from the mobile games of over a decade ago, both in scale and in audio and video experience. And most mobile phones now have larger screens and touch screens have become the main way to use mobile phones, which did not exist on the same level mobile phones in 10 years ago, which has promoted the development of mobile games ( Rubino et al., 2015 ).

The continuous evolution of cell phone hardware has brought about a constant change in the needs of gamers. There was a time when the only requirement for gamers was that their phones could run a particular game, but now gamers want smoother games, no lag when playing online, and even want their phones to be able to turn on the highest picture quality of the game ( Ma et al., 2019 ). This means that the hardware that provides key performance in the phone and the network environment that the phone relies on also needs to evolve to meet the increasingly diverse needs of gamers ( Wang et al., 2020 ). Gradually, mobile phones and mobile games have worked together to promote growth and form the industry shape we see today. In addition to entertainment, mobile games also carry part of people’s social needs in their daily lives ( Yang and Gong, 2021 ).

Twenty years ago, the average person was still using 2G networks and physical button phones were just starting to become popular ( Jang et al., 2019 ). At the time, most phones only had a black and white screen of about 1 inch, and due to system and network capacity limitations, only the games built into the phone could be played, such as Snake, Tetris, etc ( Figure 1 ). These were indeed interesting, but they were just ordinary games to kill the time.


Figure 1. Representative mobile games from 1994 to 2019.

After 2003, color screen cell phones and PDAs began to occupy the consumers’ vision, the hardware performance of cell phones began to improve, the software and system functions were gradually enriched. At the same time, electronic games began to appear on cell phones in various forms ( Syahrivar et al., 2022 ). Since Symbian had strict limits on the resolution and number of threads for software development, and J2ME development had a maximum memory limit, the vast majority of mobile games did not exceed 1 MB in size until the new Symbian system appeared in 2006, when these restrictions were lifted one by one ( de Byl, 2014 ).

The popularity of color-screened phones allowed game developers to see the opportunity, and some very well-known games such as Need for Speed, Call of Duty, Command and Conquer, and many others launched dedicated mobile versions ( Berlo et al., 2020 ). Many small development teams and enthusiasts also developed board games such as chess, Texas hold’em into mobile versions. A variety of mobile phone native games began to appear at this time, such as “Tower Bloxx” and “Galaxy on Fire” in 2005 were enjoyable for handheld gamers at the time ( Haney, 2017 ). Around 2005, when client-side mobile games were just exploding, there were already many specialized game makers developing mobile games for non-smartphones, but limited by the speed and stability of cell phone networks, and they were eagerly anticipating the popularity of 3G and 4G, but failed to foresee the rapid explosion of smartphones ( Sosins, 2013 ; Manning and Buttfield-Addison, 2017 ; Papadakis, 2021 ).

From Keyboard to Touch Screen

In 2008, with the birth of iOS and Android, Apple successfully pioneered the touch screen cell phone, after the mobile game from the constraints of the physical keyboard, such as “Angry Birds,” “Plants vs. Zombies,” “Fruit Ninja,” “Temple Run” and a series of new hand quickly occupied the market share in 1 year ( Vaiopoulou et al., 2021 ). The introduction of Angry Birds made the public realize for the first time that the era of mobile games may be coming ( Kalogiannakis et al., 2022 ).

“Angry Birds”, developed by Rovio and launched in 2009, is another phenomenal product. Throughout the game, gamers only need to do one action, which is to press and hold the bird on the slingshot in the screen to drag and release ( Villasana et al., 2020 ). Such a simple operation overturned the public’s inherent impression of how mobile games are presented, so Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope, launched a year later, both became star products at the time for their sophisticated gameplay design and simple sliding operation ( Thomas et al., 2019 ). Few people may know that the first release of the game Doodle Jump in 2009 was developed for touchscreen phones, and only a year later came a version that supported physical button phones. That’s because around 2010, the popularity of large-screen touch phones with smart systems made a radical change in the way mobile games were operated ( Thomas et al., 2019 ).

The birth of the iPhone and the resulting trend in the use of touch screen created not only revolutionized the user’s experience of operating cell phones, but also made hand games free from the limitations of the physical keyboard, with new operation ways of playing other than “up, down, left and right” ( Škařupová et al., 2016 ). If we say that the high price of iPhone may to a certain extent prevent the further expansion of the user scale of smartphones, Android is waiting for the opportunity to fill the gap to complete the last blow of smart phones to feature phones ( Ghosh et al., 2018 ).

Take iOS as an example, App Store is the only (or the main) channel value, hand game developers still have the leisure of “slow work, fine work,” but by the limitation of iPhone ownership, the income of developers at this time is much shabbier compared with today ( Bagaa et al., 2018 ). For example, in 2011, the highest-grossing handheld game in China was “World War II Storm,” and its monthly flow was only $800,000 ( Paseka and Schwab, 2020 ).

In 2010, Google announced its withdrawal from China because of its refusal to censor content. Although Android as an operating system was not affected much, but as we all know, Google Play, a connected service, was given the risk of instability ( Liu et al., 2020 ). The reason why smart phones are “smart” is that they allow users to obtain applications through channels and support users to freely configure applications in hardware terminals, when the official channels of Android are covered with a layer of haze, coupled with the unique openness of Android, the status of channel providers for distributing handicraft products is increasingly important ( Thien et al., 2020 ). This is the biggest enlightenment brought to practitioners by the mobile Internet in the outbreak stage.

From 2G to 5G

With the issuance of 4G LTE license by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in 2013, domestic cell phone users officially ushered in the 4G era ( Karabiyik et al., 2020 ). In 2014, the real-time competitive MOBA hand game “Vainglory” was launched, emphasizing the real-time nature of network online, while “Magic Spirit Summoning,” “Tower Legend” and other nurturing RPG games, although the gameplay is focused on the standalone part, the official will regularly update a large amount of game content to keep the game fresh and the passion of gamers, so an efficient network becomes very important ( Wang et al., 2015 ).

4G networks ( Figure 2 ) use LTE technology on the prime 1,800 and 800 M spectrum bands, with a theoretical maximum mobile network speed of 100 Mbps and actual 10 M–30 Mbps. 5G networks use Massive MIMO technology in the 3.5 GHz range, which can theoretically reach a wireless data rate of 1 Gbps, greatly increasing wireless data bandwidth and enabling mobile games with less hourly delay and faster rate, giving gamers a better and faster gaming experience ( Zappone et al., 2016 ). Mobile games are a cross-regional, cross-cultural, cross-racial, and cross-religious entertainment. It allows gamers to realize the ability to be entertained at home, on the subway, and outdoors with gamers around the world at any time. These demands reflect the advantages of 4G LTE and later 4G LTE-A networks, which can provide bandwidth based on priority, allowing more traffic to devices with higher download demands and transferring data to multiple devices at the same time, thus making the mobile network a stronger experience. Whether it’s skin updates for MOBAs or massive updates for nurturing games, which can be downloaded to gamers’ phones faster ( Buzzi et al., 2012 ).


Figure 2. Evolution of mobile generation from 1G to 5G.

In 2015, “Arena of Alor” was publicly tested together with “We MOBA” and other multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, and most handheld gamers were brought into the tide of MOBA games ( Buzzi et al., 2016 ). These games are not only fast to get started, but also have compact gameplay and gorgeous graphics effects, which not only require excellent performance of network environment where the handheld gamers are located, but also challenge the hardware performance of cell phones ( Zhang et al., 2017 ). The complex lighting and particle effects in the game make the CPU and GPU in the SoC take a lot of pressure; at this time, the modem in the phone can’t be idle and needs to coordinate the network to cope with transferring the various data that occur in the game. Such comprehensive needs have led more cell phone manufacturers to start launching products that emphasize cell phone performance and networking capabilities ( Chiang et al., 2021 ).

This trend has prompted more developers to bring a wider variety of games with richer titles to the mobile platform. Almost every year, several topical titles emerge, such as “Crackdown 3” in 2016, “Monument Valley 2” in 2017, and “World in Pictures” and “Florence” in 2018, which expose more smartphone users to the “video game” entertainment genre ( Guo et al., 2019 ). For most gamers, the connected competitive games like 2018’s Peaceful Elite handheld, Wild Ride 9: Racing Legends and the new Call of Duty Mobile in 2019 are their best choices ( Guo et al., 2019 ).

From black and white screen feature phones to large screen touch smartphones, not only cell phones have changed over the past 10 years, but the way we work, live and play games has changed dramatically. As 5G technology gets closer to us, mobile games will take on a more diverse look with new technology and new hardware, such as 5G cloud games will also bring richer game products to more gamers, using 5G’s high speed and low latency advantages, host and PC games will also become possible to load in real time on the mobile side ( Habiba and Hossain, 2018 ). This will also bring a different game experience for handheld gamers.

The 4G era has brought about the rise of handheld gaming, which has now became an important part of the global gaming landscape, with countless numbers of handheld gamers, and the demand for mobile gaming performance continues to increase. The advent of the 5G era will change the game experience for gamers at this stage, which is limited by equipment and network latency ( Akbar et al., 2021 ). Although 5G is still in its infancy, it will definitely have a significant impact on the global gaming market in the future ( Oberst et al., 2017 ).

As 5G technology matures, one of its main applications is to provide a smooth cloud gaming experience. In addition, the low latency of 5G and the convenience of smartphones will make mobile devices a key platform for cloud gaming. Due to the advancement in the network, major mobile manufacturers are now launching 5G gaming phones to cater to the market and provide a better gaming experience to the gamers. Therefore gaming phones have also become one of the selling points for cell phone manufacturers.

Psychosocial Effect of Mobile Game on K12 Children Education Performance

Public awareness—negative content of mobile game.

Many elementary school students are addicted to mobile games and cannot extricate themselves from games, some of them even steal their parents’ money to recharge for playing games and play truant. They only think about the mobile games all day and all night, and think of all the ways to play games, so they are not interested in studying at all and their academic performance is in a mess. It seems obvious that the more time you spend playing games, the worse your academic performance, and there are studies that have found a correlation between time spent on video games and students’ academic performance ( Padilla-Walker et al., 2009 ). But is poor academic performance really the fault of gaming? It is important to note that “correlation” does not mean “causation”: for example, just because “sleeping in shoes” is associated with “getting up in the morning with a headache,” does that mean that “sleeping in shoes causes headaches” is causal? In fact, why do you sleep with your shoes on? The most likely reason is that one forgets to take off one’s shoes before lying down in bed after drinking too much, and this is the factor that has a real causal relationship with “getting up in the morning with a headache” ( Seo et al., 2019 ).

A student who is repeatedly frustrated with his grades, expects appreciation and has high expectations of himself, has no outlet for his pent-up emotions. But in mobile games he can not only vent his stress but also receive a quick reward ( Chafouleas et al., 2021 ). The situation of students who are already not excelling in their academic performance will get worse because playing games will waste time in learning, thus creating a vicious circle ( Laws and Millward, 2001 ), i.e., although playing games takes away from our studies, playing games may only be one point in the chain, and the reasons that lead us to play games are actually more complex.

Why Are Games Addictive but Learning Is Usually NOT?

Compared with learning, mobile games have distinct advantages that games tend to have some measure the progress of participants to some extent, meaning that their effort is visible and obvious, whereas learning does not ( Luder et al., 2020 ). There is progress in learning, but it is a slow process and people are not sensitive to small changes ( Chen, 2017 ). The simplest example should be hair, i.e., hair grows every day, but it is generally unconscious. If you get a haircut once a year, and within a year your hair changes from short to long, people around you will not think you have changed, but 1 day you get a haircut and it becomes as short again as it was a year ago, people will be surprised and say what a big change you have made. But take that big change and put it over a long period of time and it won’t feel like much. It’s the same with studying, but many people fist pump and swear, then study for a while, feel they haven’t made much progress, and give up. This is the objective basis for the old cliché on Know Your Enemy that “hard work doesn’t always lead to progress” ( Chen and Gregory, 2009 ). The game makes this process visible, turning a large amount into many tiny amounts, and it is important to feel that you are improving.

Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

The tasks set in the game are mostly achievable goals, not too easy and not too hard. There is a lot of data analysis behind this degree of accuracy ( Wang et al., 2020 ). Increasing participation in games is linked to their benefits and results. Not so with learning. The average person does not have this analysis; you put a 500-page book in front of them and they will not even read it because they think it is so thick that they will not be able to finish it in their lifetime ( Hsieh, 2021 ). However, these are perfectly achievable if they are divided into smaller goals after scientific analysis.

The game does such a good job of this. It is clear on the game that for everything you achieve, you will be rewarded accordingly and your efforts will be recognized. On the other hand, learning, has a great deal of uncertainty. Working very hard and not getting good results happens to almost everyone ( Bavelier et al., 2011 ). This puts a lot of people off, so they choose not to try to work hard, so if they succeed they will be complacent and think they are clever, and if they fail it won’t matter, after all they haven’t put much effort into it.


A known reward will motivate people, but unknown factors will really keep them going. A reward with appropriate uncertainty will be exciting, it will increase people’s dopamine production and fascinate people ( Gentile et al., 2004 ). We encounter same situation when we read a novel. But when listening to a lesson, this is simply not possible. If we could figure out how humans learn and what motivates people to act from the development of games, then apply it beyond games, the value it could create is immeasurable, and it would be a ground-breaking thing.

The Psychosocial Impact of Mobile Games

In fact, the psychosocial mechanisms behind playing games deserve more attention than academic performance. Often the decline in academic performance is the most easily observed, but the relationship between playing video games and soft aspects such as feelings of loneliness, loss, self-esteem, social anxiety and social skills is often overlooked. These commonly overlooked factors largely contribute to negative events that influence our perceptions of mobile games ( Han et al., 2009 ).

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory ( Figure 3 ), human needs are divided into five categories from low to high: physiological needs, security needs, social needs, respect needs, and self-actualization needs. When the lower level needs are satisfied, the next level needs will become the primary motivation ( Boyer, 2015 ; Li et al., 2021 ). So when we have satisfied the two basic needs of physiological needs and security needs, the pursuit of spirituality will rise to become the main conflict. So people who are not able to socialize properly have no way of satisfying their social needs and other higher needs, so for such people there is a greater need for a space to socialize and achieve things that are not possible in real life. ( Kowert et al., 2015 ) have found that people who have low self-esteem in real life, are lonely, lack social skills, and are less successful in real life tend to spend more time in video games ( Winter et al., 2016 ). In turn, playing video games further exacerbates gamers’ feelings of loneliness and increased dissatisfaction with life ( Kowert et al., 2015 ).


Figure 3. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory.

A successful mobile game is inevitably appealing because of the high sense of achievement that teenagers can feel in the game again. Imagine that people who are not respected in real life can be admired for their virtual achievements in the game, either through kryptonite (spending money to increase combat power) or through their skill in playing the game. Even if you don’t make it to the top of the leader boards, you can still find a presence in a variety of ways. Moreover, in online games, without the constraints of real identities and conditions, gamers can communicate more flexibly and with less embarrassment of being rejected due to real conditions, communication between people is easier and gamers can easily build closer relationships through various tasks ( Caplan et al., 2009 ).

These people who are dissatisfied with their real lives can find a sense of presence in the game in a variety of ways to escape their real-life dissatisfaction ( Figure 4 ). However, after being satisfied in the virtual world, when they return to their real life, the gap will be even greater, and this will deepen their dissatisfaction with their real life. In addition, it is important to note that excessive play can also cause distraction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety in children ( Chan and Cheng, 2004 ; Bulduklu, 2017 ).


Figure 4. Addiction progress of mobile games and its different stages.

Anti-social Behavior Caused by Mobile Games

The content of many mobile games is full of fighting and killing, gunfire, wild and weird characters, mechanical and rough movements, absurd plot and fast rhythm, which have a serious negative impact on students’ moral and psychological health. Those students who are addicted to games are often not calm enough, restless, impulsive, indifferent to others, and more violent, bringing certain destabilizing factors to the campus, family and society. They are in reality, but their minds are in the online world, and they are prone to schizophrenia symptoms, and few children who are addicted to mobile games are psychologically healthy. Nowadays, anti-social behavior also brings much attention to mobile game study. Although video games have been designed and developed to entertain (or educate), it has to be admitted that many of them contain violent content. According to data from Children Now 2001, a non-profit organization concerned with children’s learning and development, as early as 15 years ago, 89% of all games contained violent content, and nearly half of them contained severe violence ( Bulduklu, 2017 ).

Researchers have found that excessive immersion in games with antisocial content (violence) can easily lead to addiction and that such games have a subtle effect on gamers: they lack empathy and are prone to destructive behavior in real life. In fact, for gamers, the violent stimuli provided by virtual worlds such as combat are not only a stress relief, but also a training exercise that allows them to become accustomed to such aggressive emotions and destructive behavior in games, which they gradually carry over into real life ( Huizenga et al., 2009 ).

In a study conducted in 2011, Anderson and Bushman surveyed over 4,000 gamers and found that violent games increased aggressive emotions and decreased pro-social behaviour. Both children and adults, men and women were deeply affected by this ( Foerster et al., 2019 ). This is not to say that violent play necessarily leads to violent behavior. However, when we are constantly trained to think about our enemies in games and reinforced to react quickly and aggressively to each other’s actions, we constantly rehearse this script in our minds and feel threatened all the time, which translates into real-life situations where we are also hostile to those around us and develop “hostile attribution bias” ( Venetz et al., 2014 ). For example, if Ming knocks over my cup, I will think that Ming thinks I am a bad person, that he is doing it on purpose, and that I have to beat him up to show him so that he would not do it again. But in reality, the aisle was too narrow and Ming was too fat and accidentally knocked it over. This attribution error is the “hostile attribution bias.”

It must be clear here that it is not the video game that causes the gamer’s antisocial behavior, but the violent content of the video game. It is pointless and even counterproductive to make a blanket statement. We should advocate for the regulation of the video game market and the development of sensible game content, rather than a blanket ban on all video games.

Further Actions May Take for Correct Guidance

The core educational value of mobile games.

Most scholars are studying how to make learning more interesting, so that students can learn by doing as what the mobile game does. This is the dream of our educational researchers, and Dewey’s emphasis on “learning by doing” does not seem to be working particularly well. In contrast, in a virtual environment we can learn by doing, which is similar to the real thing, improving students’ problem-solving skills, creativity and other higher-order skills, and helping to develop emotional and attitudinal values ( Villasana et al., 2020 ). This is why educational scholars are proposing to implement gamified learning, using educational games to achieve gamified learning. Gamified learning in a narrow sense generally refers to pure video games, while gamified learning in a broad sense includes game mechanics, game element design concepts, etc.

The core educational values of games are mainly acting on the aspects of psychology, socialization, and culture. With its effect on play motivation, playful thinking, and playfulness ( Figure 5 ), a good mobile game does need multiple aspects of knowledge, ability, emotions, attitudes and values ( Schwab, 2018 ). Play motivation is the most fundamental and operational value, emphasizing the use of play to motivate learning. Playful thinking suggests going beyond playful forms and emphasizes the design of non-playful learning activities as “games.” Playfulness is the most meaningful value emphasizing that learners approach the process and outcomes of learning with the same spirit and attitude as play. The core link between the three aspects is deep intrinsic motivation ( Škařupová et al., 2016 ). Getting people to do something because they are challenged and to be curious, rather than being pushed to do something every day by external rewards and pressures.


Figure 5. Core educational value of mobile games.

Gamification of Education/Educational Mobile Games

In the design of educational gamification, it is important to focus on an important issues: distinguishing the age group of the user. Gamification of education is more suitable for the K12 age group and should generally be in the form of simple games, with the degree of gamification decreasing with the age of the user increasing; there will be some adults over 18 who prefer educational products in the form of large-scale games such as online games, but this may be a niche market ( Abeele et al., 2017 ). A light game should be a balance between learning and gameplay, it is like a layer of ketchup in the middle of a hamburger, it can be a little less, but too much is definitely not. If the game is too complex, it will take away from the main focus, the child will appear to be learning but spend more time playing, and the level of emotional arousal will be too high, which is not the desired learning effect. Don’t design a product to be “revolutionary” right out of the box, ground it and then change it incrementally, although this is the opposite of what Google’s Page says ( Huijsmans, 2019 ).

This is because schooling is absolutely dominant in the educational lives of primary and secondary school children, and most of the people who deliver schooling—the teachers—have extremely difficult to change work habits and lack the motivation to change. There are many reasons for this, which will not be expanded. Therefore the initial product should ideally be close to the actual working habits of teachers, close to the teaching content of the school, find a real solution to certain high frequency needs of teachers in their daily work and cut in, so that they can first get started, develop trust and dependence, and then expand step by step, it will be more feasible. Educational products are not super viable just because they are gamified, and you can’t expect them to get a lot of users and get the desired conversion rate just because they are “happy learning” ( Schneider et al., 2020 ). It is always believed that educational products for primary and secondary schools should be a combination of online and offline. In addition to the online part of the product, it also needs to include an offline package for teachers and parents, including training, guidance, evaluation, consultation and follow-up, and so on. For example, how teachers use the product in the classroom, how they use it after school, or what they do to provide daily feedback to parents, are all parts of the product and need to be developed into an actionable solution, not optional. Otherwise, even the best design will be short-lived and will end up like a normal game after its life cycle. So, as well as the product team, the operations team is equally important ( Cha and Seo, 2018 ). While designing the gamification, don’t forget to build and polish the educational content itself, which is the main part of the “hamburger.” Entrepreneurs are often in a hurry to get their products to market quickly and can easily over-gamify them. But the lifeblood of an educational product is still the quality of education, and when the learning effect is not reflected, it will face the dilemma of further development.

Future Trends and Limitations in Educational Mobile Games

Future trends, from a technological perspective, combine gamified learning with mobile learning; with VR/AR; with intelligent bodies; with brain science; with artificial intelligence and big data ( Quelly et al., 2016 ; Black et al., 2018 ). If the research is to solve students’ learning problems through mobile games, it is necessary to combine various research results and educational results from game design. Experimental research in this area has been conducted and found it to be quite effective. Through this experiment, it is found that the difficulty in developing this type of game is decided by how it can really enhance their learning effectiveness ( Calpbinici and Tas Arslan, 2019 ).

Still, games are games, and still there are four major limitation for the current development of educational mobile games.:

• The first major limitation is portability, that is, how what is learned in a mobile game transfers to the real world, which exposes the Achilles heel of mobile games. The challenges in video games are often fictional and have no connection to everyday life, but are rather a fantasy. The knowledge and skills that K12 students acquire in games such as battling dragons, racing jousts, and Tetris are not meaningful to everyday life and therefore not directly transferable.

• The second major limitation is simplicity. Mobile games simplify complex systems to their core and are procedural representations of the real world. The world we live in is much more complex and often defies the simple logic of the game. This results in learners often losing touch with the systems modeled in the game.

• The third major limitation is that games lack real-life environments. Mobile games are not designed to have an effect on the gamer after the game is over. The K12 students are too different from the world they live in, and the real world is too complex. Even those games that have a realistic purpose, so-called serious games or educational games, mostly fail in their transfer from the game to the real world. This is good news for those who fear that violent games make people violent, and bad news for those who think that smart games automatically make people smart.

• The fourth major limitation relates to the above question about the environment. K12 students are usually unable to spontaneously establish a relationship between what they learn in mobile games and real life. They can grasp a great deal of information in mobile games and remember it over time, but are unable to recall the simplest historical data in the classroom. The link between learning achievements in games and in the real world is often overlooked by many K12 students and teachers.

Games open the door to the transfer of learning experiences, but K12 students must go through this door themselves. For that matter, the role of teaching behavior in the use of mobile games is clearly underestimated. Learners need constructive support to draw outcomes relevant to their own learning from a rewarding play space. There may not be a fundamental difference in the traditional sense of learning, but there is a difference in the logical growth and understanding of games ( Rahim et al., 2020 ). Besides, the illusory nature of the mobile gaming experience makes the transfer of results very difficult. In response, external forces are needed to drive attention toward the potential and the knowledge learned. Teachers can and should use this meta-perspective to promote the pedagogical potential of play. The content of the learning outcomes, the enhancement of skills and knowledge, should be explored together with the K12 students. A bridge between the virtual and real worlds is built when all these gamers take note of the content and learning outcomes in question. The questions that need to be answered on the teaching side are which real-world environments can apply what is learned in the game and which aspects of the game are worth learning from. And gamers, the K12 students, should be motivated to notice this connection and to test what they have learned in their everyday lives ( Kyriakou and Glentis, 2021 ).

This paper summarizes the technological development of mobile games from the aspects of hardware and software. A neutral perspective is given to analyze the psychological and social problems that mobile games have brought to K12 students. At the end of the paper, the insights of the future development of educational games and current limitations of mobile games are also addressed. The major task for the development is to reflect on the content of the mobile game, which is not directly accessible. It is difficult to examine what is learned with a critical eye during play and must therefore be stimulated externally. The act of teaching and learning enables knowledge and skills transfer if the teacher has the ability to build bridges between the virtual and real worlds. Radically speaking, it is only through pedagogical support that the barriers to knowledge transfer in gamified learning can be overcome and the potential for learning unlocked. This new pedagogical role requires the teacher’s own interest, as well as active access to the space of gamified learning. This area deserves to be explored and experimented with and will present teachers with new pedagogical challenges.

Author Contributions

YL designed the guideline of the articles. JL contributed to the drafting of material for individual section. ZX and YH compiled the writing and conducted the analysis. YH and PX aligned the manuscript. YL and JL reviewed and provided corrections on the original draft. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords : psychosocial impacts, mobile game, K12 student, future development, educational mobile games

Citation: Li Y, Xu Z, Hao Y, Xiao P and Liu J (2022) Psychosocial Impacts of Mobile Game on K12 Students and Trend Exploration for Future Educational Mobile Games. Front. Educ. 7:843090. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2022.843090

Received: 24 December 2021; Accepted: 17 February 2022; Published: 29 April 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Li, Xu, Hao, Xiao and Liu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Yuanzhe Li, [email protected]

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Current research in English language teaching reports that there is a tendency towards the use of mobile games and technology. However, there is a lack of research conducted that informs on the implementation of those strategies in high school contexts in Colombia. This article reports a case study aimed at exploring students’ perceptions towards the use of the Serious Game Bethe1Challenge supported with gamified activities, in a high school context during pandemic times. Accordingly, interviews, a pre-test and post-test were implemented and analyzed. It is concluded that participants perceived that Bethe1Challenge is an entertaining, fun, and enjoyable game that increases motivation and improves English learning as reported in the tests. Nonetheless, constraints related to the game were also discovered.

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The relationship between playing video games on mobile devices and well-being in a sample of Japanese adolescents and adults

Associated data.

Supplemental material, sj-docx-1-smo-10.1177_20503121221147842 for The relationship between playing video games on mobile devices and well-being in a sample of Japanese adolescents and adults by Shinichi Yamaguchi in SAGE Open Medicine


In this study, I have tested the following hypothesis: Playing a mobile game for an appropriate length of time results in a stronger sense of happiness (well-being) than not playing at all.

I used the questionnaires data from 5000 participants. Well-being was measured using the three following indicators: the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, satisfaction with life scale, and four-dimensional happiness indicator. I constructed a mathematical model for determining individual well-being. The variable of game playtime was split into two parts, and the split points were selected as the most applicable using Akaike Information Criterion to search for the appropriate length of time spent playing the mobile game.

The results showed that mobile games were significantly and positively correlated with both positive and negative emotions. Playing a mobile game for 2 h or less each day was associated with a significantly higher satisfaction with life than not playing one at all. Further, well-being was significantly higher when there were no time limitations with regard to “relationship and gratitude” and when playing a mobile game for no more than 1.5 h each day with regard to “independence and my own pace” as compared to not playing one at all. Playing a mobile game for more than 2 h each day, however, resulted in lower well-being with regard to “self-realization and growth” and “positive frame of mind and optimism” as compared to not playing one at all.


These findings indicate that playing a mobile game for no longer than 1.5 h each day results in higher well-being than not playing one at all. Conversely, playing a mobile game for more than 2 h each day significantly lowers some aspects of happiness but does not significantly affect the overall satisfaction with life.


The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between time spent playing mobile games and well-being to find the most appropriate approach to playing. Mobile games are video games that are played on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It is a new type of video game, but in recent years it has rapidly penetrated the society and expanded its market. Indeed, a 2018 survey conducted by the Newzoo market research company estimated that the mobile gaming market was worth 70.3 billion dollars, thus accounting for more than half of the total of App market. This continual growth is especially significant in Japan, where the mobile gaming market exceeded 1.2 trillion yen in FY 2017. The sale of home gaming software, however, remained at 244 billion yen. 1

Mobile games differ from console games in many ways, so they have opened up new markets. Casual players with low gaming interests and who were not inclined to purchase gaming-specific hardware were easily attracted to mobile games, thus contributing to the success of the mobile games business model. 2 In addition, the vast majority of mobile gamers were casual players and they were thus prioritized in the business model. 3 It is empirically found that only a very small substitution effect moving from console games to mobile games, thus showing that mobile gaming has developed into an entirely new market. 4

With the rapid increase in the number of people playing mobile games as described above, various studies show the negative impact of mobile and video games on people. It is pointed out that there are structural similarities between mobile-puzzle gaming dependency and gambling addiction, thus suggesting that excessive use adversely impacts the overall quality of life. 5 Other studies have shown the addictiveness of mobile games and the negative effects of excessive use. A study on the popular online Candy Crush Saga game indicated that many players would leave their children at school or abandon household chores while playing. 6 Chen and Leung 7 empirically showed a positive correlation between feelings of isolation and mobile gaming addiction, thereby warning that social isolation could result from excessive commitment to the digital world.

Even before the arrival of mobile games, many studies had already focused on online gaming with regard to dependency and the adverse effects on life. Griffith, Davies, and Chappell investigated the elements that gamers sacrificed to continue their online gaming habits by distributing questionnaires with the multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) EverQuest. Results showed that 80% of all responding players had sacrificed some element of their daily lives to continue playing. More specifically, 20.8% of all responding adult players had sacrificed relationships with family, friends, and partners, while 22.7% of all responding non-adult players had sacrificed elements of their work or studies. Similar negative effects have been shown in various studies. 8 The studies showed that a positive correlation between online gaming addiction and aggressiveness/narcistic personality in addition to a negative correlation between addiction and self-management capacity, 9 found a positive correlation not only between the length of time spent playing online games and symptoms of Internet addiction, but also with depression, psychosomatic symptoms, and pain scores, 10 and a strong correlation between online gaming dependency and somatic pain. 11 Furthermore, a questionnaire survey among players of both MMORPG and offline video games showed that the length of time spent playing was much longer for the online versions. 12

However, some studies have also found that gaming has positive impacts on the people. For example, several have argued that action games exert positive influences on both the perceptive and cognitive skills. Playing an action game for 10 days helped improve visual attention, spatial range, and parallel processing skills. 13 Comparing players of an action game with players of other game types, results indicated that those playing the action game exhibited accelerated learning skills. 14 Playing an action game could improve attention and spatial cognition as well as perceptive faculties. 15 Colzato et al. 16 conducted an N-back task (a continuous performance task to investigate brain activity) in which FPS players performed better. Further, First-person shooter (FPS) players more efficiently allocated attentive resources and improved working memory in the prefrontal area by removing inappropriate information. 17

Positive psychological and educational effects have also been shown. Casual video games could encourage positive feelings. 18 Middle school students who learned with a mobile game, which is designed to encourage active learning and knowledge about Medieval Amsterdam, acquired more knowledge. 19 Playing games during childhood can aid in the development of cooperative, social, and cognitive skills. 20 Video games benefit children’s intelligence. 21

Furthermore, a small number of studies suggested the existence of optimal video game-playing time. Allahverdipour et al. 22 analyzed the relationship between video game playing and mental health in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The study showed that both non-gamers and excessive gamers overall reported poorer mental health compared to low or moderate players. Przybylski conducted an empirical analysis of youth aged 10–15 years in the United Kingdom. The results showed that low levels (<1 h daily) as well as high levels (>3 h daily) of game engagement were linked to key indicators of psychosocial adjustment. Low engagement was associated with higher life satisfaction and prosocial behavior and lower externalizing and internalizing problems, whereas the opposite was found for high levels of play. 23

The current literature indicates that many studies have identified both negative and positive aspects to video gaming. For studies finding negative aspects, much of the focus has been on excessive play (addiction), while those finding positive aspects have indicated that appropriate playing times may result in beneficial skill enhancements. It has been suggested that social media use similarly has both a positive and a negative impact on self-esteem, and that the impact varies from person to person. 24

Considering those studies, certain lengths of playing time can result in various benefits, while excessive play entails negative consequences. Many of these preceding studies have focused on linear or comparative analyses involving either individuals who play excessively or those who play for appropriate amounts of time. If overplaying video games produces negative effects and playing them appropriately produces positive effects, an appropriate playing time may exist. A few studies 22 , 23 suggested it is close to that. Even in those studies, however, the following points were not made: First, they classified the game-playing time from the beginning and did not explore the appropriate length of time spent playing the mobile game. Second, they focused on traditional video games and not on mobile games, which have become mainstream in recent years.

Based on the above, this study developed the following hypothesis focusing on the rapidly growing mobile gaming industry:

  • Playing a mobile game for an appropriate length of time results in a stronger sense of well-being than not playing at all.

A distinctive feature of this hypothesis is its focus on well-being. If mobile game playing results in increased physical ability, positive emotional development and social skills, such as those shown in previous studies, it may also have a positive impact on people’s overall well-being. On the other hand, if mobile game playing results in sacrificing some element of daily life, addiction, and falling into depression, such as those shown in previous studies, it may also have a negative impact on people’s overall well-being. In light of the above, it is also important to examine the relationship between mobile games and society and people in terms of its impact on overall well-being. In fact, the impact of entertainment on people’s well-being is even more evident in a study. 25 For these reasons, this study examined the overall impact of mobile gaming on well-being.

The novelty of this study is threefold: (1) to explore the appropriate length of time spent playing the mobile game; (2) to analyze the relationship between overall well-being and mobile game playing time, rather than people’s abilities; and (3) to focus on mobile games, a rapidly growing market in recent years.

The rest of this article proceeds as follows. Section “Introduction” explains the questionnaire survey and how well-being (an important variable in this study) was measured, while Section “Methods” describes the estimation model, Section “Results” presents the results, Section “Discussion” describes the contributions of this study and the relationship between previous studies and this study and Section “Conclusion” presents the conclusion.

This study used data collected through an online questionnaire survey conducted in Japan. It was conducted from May 24 to June 1, 2019. Survey subjects were drawn from monitors registered with MyVoice Communications, Inc. (an Internet research company) and its affiliates. Participants were between 15 and 69 years who lived in Japan. The reasons for targeting people of a wide range of ages are that they play mobile games at least in Japan. According to a survey by the Japan Online Game Association, the playing population is roughly evenly split from late teens to 50s, with an average age of about 40 years.

The sample was obtained through stratified sampling in proportion to the Japanese populational ratios of both gender and generation. More specifically, I determined the gender and generational population ratios in 5-year intervals based on an estimate published by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, and extracted samples accordingly. I randomly sent the questionnaire to obtain responses so that the target number of responses was 5000 and the population ratio by sex and age was the same as in Japan. Further, those with extremely short response times (less than 1 min) were excluded from the sample. All subjects have been informed about the study before participating. They were also explained that if they answered the questionnaire, it would suggest they have consented to its contents. The number of samples by gender and age is shown in Table 1 .

Sample size.

What is important in this study is the measure of well-being. Since the 1970s, accumulated research on the concept of well-being has made it clear that income and well-being do not necessarily correlate. 20 , 26 Recent research into the factors that influence well-being has empirically determined that not only economic wealth, but interpersonal resources such as friendship and partnership also increase well-being. 27 There is a U-shaped relationship between psychological well-being and age. 28 The use of social platforms such as Facebook tend to reduce subjective well-being among young people. 29 Some research has also proposed the use of four interacting scales comprised of mental, physical, social, and psychological well-being as an overall approach to measuring subjective well-being. 30

In this study, I used the following three indicators to examine the impact of video gaming on well-being:

Emotional well-being (PANAS)

Research into subjective well-being and how and why people feel it is typically conducted from two perspectives (i.e., emotional responses and cognitive judgment). 31 Here, emotions are known to exert significant influences on well-being. 32 In other words, positive (as opposed to negative) emotions enhance one’s sense of well-being. Many argue that this concept is suitable for measuring short-term well-being (e.g., over a few months). It is thus referred to in these studies as emotional well-being. 33 , 34

There are many ways to measure emotional well-being. This study, however, used the Japanese version 35 of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), 33 which is widely used throughout the world. For both positive and negative emotions, this study used eight items that respondents assessed on a six-point scale (1 = not applicable at all, 6 = very applicable) to determine the total score. To eliminate bias, 16 items were randomly presented to each respondent. Details on the questionnaire can be found in Supplemental Appendix 1 .

Satisfaction with life (research by the Japanese Cabinet Office)

With regard to emotional well-being, the only relationship I could analyze was that between emotion and game playing. That is, I could not analyze its relationship with life in general. I expanded my analysis of this relationship by asking a similar question about satisfaction with life to the one asked in the “opinion poll survey on national life” conducted by the Japanese Cabinet Office of Japan. Specifically, respondents were asked the following: “Overall, to what extent are you satisfied with your life at present? Please choose the answer that is closest to your feelings.” This was answered on a five-point scale (1 = dissatisfied, 5 = satisfied); the number of each chosen response was then converted into a score. More details are available in Supplemental Appendix 2 .

Four-dimensional indicator of subjective wellbeing

Previous studies have found that several kinds of well-being exist. To accurately investigate which kinds were influenced by gaming, I thus used the four-dimensional indicator of subjective well-being constructed by Maeno, 36 which is widely used in Japan. The indicator is comprised of four factors (i.e., self-realization and growth, relationships and gratitude, positive frame of mind and optimism, and independence and my own pace). Each factor contains four subscales. For each, respondents were asked to rate statements such as “I am capable” along a seven-point scale (1 = do not think so at all, 7 = I very much think so). Total scores were thus determined and used as subjective well-being indicators. As abovementioned, this indicator is widely used to measure well-being in Japan. For example, it has been used in a questionnaire survey to determine the relationship between environmental loads and well-being, 37 a study based on a project designed to revitalize local industry (participation in the project and well-being attributes), 38 and a study among students that investigated instances of national well-being that could not be explained by GDP or income. 39 Details are available in Supplemental Appendix 3 .

I have thus far reviewed the various methods of measuring well-being. Many previous studies have revealed several factors that influence well-being. This study used some of these as control variables to quantitatively test the relationship between the length of time spent playing mobile games and well-being (i.e., a regression analysis). First, previous research has determined the high likelihood that income is correlated with well-being. 26 This study used household income as a variable. Next, it is well-known that both friendships and partnerships influence well-being. 27 I thus added the three variables of marital status (the dummy variable that is 1 if married), number of friends, and satisfaction with social relationships. The number of friends was surveyed on a 9-point scale (1 = 0, 2 = approximately 3 or less, 3 = approximately 5, 4 = approximately 10, 5 = approximately 15, 6 = approximately 20, 7 = approximately 30, 8 = approximately 40, 9 = approximately 50 or more). I determined respondent satisfaction with social relationships based on their evaluations of “overall relationship with everyone: friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, classmates, and partners” according to a five-point scale (1 = not satisfied at all, 5 = very satisfied).

Many previous studies have analyzed well-being; one such study of 5000 adult males in Sweden showed that health influenced well-being. 40 I added degree of health as a variable that represented respondents’ subjective evaluations of their health according to a five-point scale (1 = not healthy at all, 5 = very healthy).

Recent research has found that self-determination influences well-being. Self-determination was important in motivation, which in turn influences well-being. 41 Self-esteem increased well-being. 42 Building on these studies, Nishimura and Yagi empirically analyzed the relationship between self-determination and well-being, thereby finding a strong correlation. 43 As such, this study also used self-determination as a variable. Following this study, 43 self-determination was operationalized according to respondents’ evaluation of the following: “About choices that have been important in life, such as going to university and finding a job.” This was answered according to a five-point scale (1 = it was not my wish at all but I made that decision because others recommended it, 2 = it was not exactly what I wanted but I made that decision because others recommended it, 3 = neither, 4 = it was my own decision to a certain extent, and 5 = I made the decision based on my wishes). Responses were used as direct indicators.

Following the above, the analytical model contained six total variables (marital status (dummy variable)), household income (10,000 yen), health (1–5), number of friends (persons), social relationships (1–5), and self-determination (1–5)). Further, the basic attributes of gender and age were added. In addition, for mobile game playing time, I surveyed the average daily playing time per day in the last week on an 8-point scale (1 = not playing at all, 2 = less than approximately 15 min per day, 3 = approximately 30 min per day, 4 = approximately an hour per day, 5 = approximately 1.5 h per day, 6 = approximately 2 h per day, 7 = approximately 3 h per day, 8 = more than approximately 4 h per day).

Table 2 presents the basic statistics. Table 3 shows the frequency for length of time spent playing the mobile games. Here, respondents were asked to choose one of eight options concerning the average length of time they spent playing mobile games each day over the past week. Table 3 shows that most did not play mobile games at all; the longer the length of time spent playing mobile games, the fewer the respondents. However, 83 respondents spent 4 h or more playing the game.

Basic statistics.

Frequency for length of time spent playing mobile games.

I then examined the relationship between well-being and the length of time spent playing mobile games according to the retrieved data. The above hypothesis posited that those who played mobile games for appropriate lengths of time would feel happier than those who do not play at all, however, those who played mobile games for excessive amounts of time should feel less happy.

I examined this issue using the “satisfaction with life” variable, which was designed to capture the overall picture among the abovementioned well-being indicators; I plotted the relationship between the length of time spent playing mobile games and well-being in Figure 1 . Figure 1 shows the mean and the range of standard deviations. Those who played mobile games for approximately 2 h or less were more satisfied with life than those who did not play at all. As the hypothesis suggested, playing mobile games for a certain duration positively influenced well-being.

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The relationship between length of time spent playing mobile games and satisfaction with life.

Because well-being is influenced by a variety of factors, I needed to analyze its relationship with the length of time spent playing mobile games after controlling for factors (e.g., gender, age, income, etc.). Section “Results” discusses how I quantitatively tested the relationship between the length of time spent playing mobile games and well-being through a regression analysis using the well-being determination model.

The following formula (1) represents the model used in this study. Here, it was assumed that length of time spent playing mobile games and other control variables influenced the various indicators of well-being discussed above:

w e l l i represents each indicator of well-being for individual i , p l a y i represents the vector of the length of time individual i spends playing the mobile games, C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i represents the attributes vector of individual i , α , β , a n d γ represent the parameters of each vector, and ε i represents an error term. The attributes vector contained: gender, age, marital status (dummy variable), household income (10,000 yen), health (1–5), number of friends (persons), social relationships (1–5), and self-determination (1–5). Incidentally, as Blanchflower and Oswald 28 demonstrated a U-shaped relationship between well-being and age, I add squared ages as a variable.

This study was particularly interested in vector P l a y i and its parameter β . As discussed earlier, a simple linear regression would be unable to obtain a correct implication following the hypothesis. On the other hand, this does not suggest that a quadratic function type would fit ( Figure 1 ). Having set those who did not play the mobile games as the standard, P l a y i was operationalized as a vector for a dummy variable dividing the length of time spent playing the mobile games up to a certain point and above. For example, if the hypothesis posited that up to 2 h of mobile gaming would enhance well-being, then two blocks would be created (i.e., “From about 15 min or less to about 2 h” and “about 3 h or more”). A such, P l a y i was the vector of each dummy variable.

I, however, could not determine the appropriate cutoff point in terms of the length of time spent playing the game until completing the analysis. I thus constructed a model for all cases in which responses of “about 15 min or less,” “about 1 h,” “about 1.5 h,” “about 2 h,” “about 3 h,” and “4 h or more” were divided into two and subjected to a regression analysis. I then determined a cutoff point by selecting the best-fitting model in reference to the information criterion. For this, I followed the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). 44 Because it was also plausible that both shorter and longer lengths of mobile gaming would similarly influence well-being, I conducted a regression analysis using a model with an undivided dummy variable. I therefore tested the following seven models in reference to the AIC. Here, play (≤ x) i stands for individual i playing mobile games for x min per day:

  • Model 1: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 15 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 30 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 2: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 30 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 60 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 3: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 60 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 90 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 4: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 90 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 120 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 5: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 120 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 180 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 6: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 180 ) i + β 2 p l a y ( ≥ 240 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i
  • Model 7: w e l l i = α + β 1 p l a y ( ≤ 240 ) i + γ C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i + ε i

Following the above, I estimated formula (1) using the least square method with seven indicators for each of three types. First of all, I needed to select the best-fitting model from the seven shown above, so I estimated models 1–7 and AIC (shown as graphs in Figures 2 ​ 2 ​ ​ ​ ​ – 8 ).

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AIC: Positive emotions.

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AIC: Negative emotions.

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AIC: Satisfaction with life.

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AIC: Four dimensions of well-being (self-realization and growth).

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AIC: Four dimensions of well-being (relationship and gratitude).

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AIC: Four dimensions of well-being (positive frame of mind and optimism).

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AIC: Four dimensions of well-being (independence and my own pace).

Tables 4 and ​ and5 5 show the results of estimating the selected models due to their minimum AICs. Table 3 specifically shows the estimation results for emotional well-being and satisfaction with life, while Table 5 shows the estimation results for the four-dimensional well-being indicator. Column 〈1〉 in Table 4 shows the estimation results for the positive emotions of emotional well-being, while Column 〈2〉 shows negative emotions, and Column 〈3〉 shows satisfaction with life. Column 〈4〉 in Table 5 shows the estimation results for self-realization and growth, while Column 〈5〉 shows relationship and gratitude, Column 〈6〉 shows positive frame of mind and optimism, and Column 〈7〉 shows independence and my own pace. For all results, p was determined based on heteroscedastic and consistent standard error. 45 Estimations were conducted using statistical package STATA; values that were significant at 5% are marked with asterisks in both tables.

Results for emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.

p is worked out from heteroscedastic and consistent standard error.

Results for the four-dimensional well-being indicator.

First, I can confirm that many of the control variables were significant in all estimations. For example, Column 〈3〉 shows satisfaction with life ( Table 4 ). Here, satisfaction with life is low for males and age has a U-shaped relationship with satisfaction with life (high among the young and elderly); satisfaction with life is also higher among the married. Satisfaction with life becomes higher as income, and/or degree of health increases. Further, satisfaction with life becomes higher when respondents have more friends, are satisfied with their relationships, and when self-determination is enhanced. These findings support those of previous studies, 27 , 28 suggesting overall model validity.

I then determined the coefficients for the length of time spent playing the mobile games. Columns 〈1〉 and 〈2〉(related to emotional well-being) clearly indicate that the results for both positive and negative emotions did not support the hypothesis that “up to a certain amount of time, it decreases, but subsequently decreases.” More specifically, if the length of time spent playing the mobile games was “about 30 min or more,” then those who played it reported higher emotional well-being than those who do not. For negative emotions, I used an undivided model; there was a tendency for those who played the mobile games to feel happy as a result of any amount of time spent playing.

Following this, the results in Column 〈3〉 ( Table 4 ) show satisfaction with life as an overall indicator. Column 〈3〉 suggested that respondents who spent about 2 h or less playing the mobile games per day were more satisfied with life (significantly positive). Specifically, those who play mobile games for less than 2 h per day have a 0.060 higher level of life satisfaction. These findings support this study’s hypothesis.

Looking at Table 5 , which shows the analysis results for well-being according to the four-dimensional well-being indicator, it is evident that there is a positive correlation between the length of time spent playing mobile games and an indicator “relationship and gratitude,” though there was no meaningful relationship between the length of time spent playing the mobile games and “relationship and gratitude.” Specifically, playing mobile games significantly increases the indicator “relationship and gratitude” by 0.358. If people played mobile games for more than 2 h per day, however, their indicator “self-actualization and growth” would be significantly reduced by 0.558.

As for emotional well-being, those who played the mobile games had stronger emotions (both positive and negative) than those who did not. While video games have both positive and negative influences on one’s emotional state, 11 , 16 reports have also indicated that it can turn negative emotions into positive experiences. 46 This suggests that playing the mobile games influences emotions both positively and negatively and that, consequently, players report higher degrees of emotion than non-players. PANAS regards the state in which positive emotions are high and negative emotions are low as a higher state of emotional well-being. The above findings suggest, however, that playing the mobile games can either result in positive or negative influences. From this result, it is impossible to determine whether the hypothesis is supported or unsupported.

Next, regarding life satisfaction, those who played mobile games for 2 h or less per day had higher satisfaction with life than those who did not play. Satisfaction with life is an indicator of overall well-being. Previous studies have shown that playing video games improves abilities 14 , 15 , 17 , 18 have also shown from Electroencephalogram (EEG) and heart rate measurements that game play may promote positive emotions. The overall effect of these factors may be that playing mobile games correlates with higher life satisfaction.

Finally, for the four dimensions of well-being indicators, there was a significant positive relationship between the length of time spent playing mobile games and “relationship and gratitude.” Many mobile games involve exchange and team competition by allowing players to collaborate through the Internet and providing digital facilities to exchange items. 47 In other words, when the people play mobile games, they make more friends and expand their relationships. In addition, the process of cooperative play is often gratifying. For these reasons, I can infer that playing mobile games enhances the indicator “relationship and gratitude.” On the other hand, playing mobile games for more than 2 h a day significantly decreased the “self-actualization and growth” indicator. As Griffith, Davies, and Chappell argued, 8 people who play mobile games for long periods of time tend to have problems in their lives. If the people are playing so much mobile games that they can’t do anything else and it’s interfering with their lives, they may have lower “self-actualization and growth” because they feel that their social and organizational needs are not being met.

However, this study also had some limitations. First, it acquired well-being data solely through a self-evaluated questionnaire survey. Second, while several indicators were used to examine its hypothesis, no absolute indicator was available for measuring well-being on a global scale; it is possible that the above situations are different in Japan than in other countries. There is a current research movement in which well-being is measured from different perspectives (e.g., psychological). As such, future studies should analyze how mobile gaming influences well-being according to a greater diversity of measurements. Third, Sauter et al. 48 pointed out that raw playtime is an uninformative predictor of a gamer’s mental health and believed that earlier studies with smaller sample sizes may have overestimated its influence. This study has large sample size, but it is a fact that this analysis did not control the social context in which the gamers play. Fourth, this study only analyzed mobile games as a whole, there are no controls for contents of the mobile games. Fifth, there are several analytical issues. Power analysis for sample size calculation was not done and the questionnaire used in this study was not validated and pilot tested. Sixth, life satisfaction was only assessed with a single item. It is from the survey of Japanese Cabinet Office, but it has not been academically validated. Seventh, the appropriate length and the effects of playing mobile game may also differ for individuals’ circumstances, for example, income, stress, and work-life balance. Hopefully, in the future, research on the appropriate length of time spent playing the mobile game will develop that addresses these research issues.

This study analyzed survey data from 5000 online questionnaires to test the following hypothesis: Playing a mobile game for an appropriate length of time results in a stronger sense of wellbeing than not playing at all. The results first showed that playing mobile games was significantly and positively correlated with both positive and negative emotions. Then, playing mobile games for less than 2 h per day has a significant positive impact (0.060) on life satisfaction. Finally, playing mobile games any number of hours per day had a significantly positive impact on indicator “relationship and gratitude” by 0.358. If people played mobile games for more than 2 h per day, however, their indicator “self-actualization and growth” would be significantly reduced by 0.558.

These results suggest that playing mobile games for about 1.5 h or less per day has positive impact on people’s well-being. Although playing for about 2 h or more per day significantly decreased an aspect of well-being, overall satisfaction with life did not significantly decrease. Are the numbers 0.060 and 0.358 too small? These values are about 1.79% and about 1.83% for each mean value, respectively. As the impact of only playing mobile games on people’s well-being, it would not be small. The results of this study support the hypothesis, showing that people playing mobile games for up to 1.5 h per day increases well-being and life satisfaction. Games are not only consumed as entertainment, but they also contribute to people’s well-being.

This study makes an important contribution by suggesting an appropriate length of time to play mobile games with regard to achieving and/or maintaining overall well-being in a field where such discussions are currently polarized: some focus on the negative aspects (e.g., adverse effects related to addiction) of the game, while others emphasize the positive aspects (e.g., improving cognitive capacity). In other words, I got some implications about the role of mobile games in human society and how people are best suited to play them.

Several implications can be drawn from this. First, children or family members playing mobile games do not necessarily mean that they should quit doing so. Rather, moderate mobile game play enhances well-being. Second, excessive government intervention regarding game play can be rather detrimental. In Japan, for example, Kagawa Prefecture made headlines with an ordinance which limits 60 min per day of video game use for those under 18 years old. The action generated significant opposition, including that it was an intervention in the home. The results of this study suggested, however, that even if I focus only on mobile games, a maximum of 1.5 h per day would be beneficial, at least from the perspective of well-being. Government intervention not only incurs administrative costs, but also has the potential to lower social welfare. Third, moderate play of mobile games increased “relationship and graduate.” Although this study was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic limited many people’s communication with others. Nowadays, it may be more important to increase “relationship and graduate” by playing mobile games.

Supplemental Material


Hidetaka Oshima and Shinnosuke Tanabe, the research assistants of the Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan, lent me their invaluable cooperation. Thank you very much.

Author contributions: SY made substantial contributions to the study concept, the data analysis and interpretation; drafted the manuscript and revised it critically for important intellectual content; approved the final version of the manuscript to be published; and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethics approval: Ethical approval for this study was obtained from the ethics review board of the Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan (Approval number: GE 19001).

Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP18K12882, JP21K12586 and GREE Inc.

Informed consent: All subjects have been informed about the study before participating. They also were explained if they answered the questionnaire, it would suggest they have consented to its contents. Obtaining written informed consent is exempted by the ethics review board.

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Object name is 10.1177_20503121221147842-img1.jpg

Supplemental material: Supplemental material for this article is available online.


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