Nintendo: gaming for social impact
Hamish Chamberlayne and Amarachi Seery, members of the Global Sustainable Equity Team, discuss how Nintendo is putting its stamp on the video gaming industry.
Since the invention of the first-ever ‘video game’ in the 1950s, the global video game market has grown to a billion-dollar industry, reaching a value of nearly US $160 billion in 2020.1 Some sources suggest that the worldwide gaming industry generates more money than the North American sports industry and global film industry combined.2
We explore two areas where Nintendo is demonstrating a focus on sustainability – doing it right in wellbeing and driving technological change for good – areas that contribute positively to society.
Doing right in wellbeing
In recent years wellbeing and mental health awareness has increased dramatically. We consider it to be an integral part of overall health and wellbeing and were pleased to find that Nintendo’s games can contribute positively to overall wellbeing, which includes sub-themes such as mental health and managing obesity.
While video games can be a source of entertainment, they have often been met with contention. Numerous studies have been undertaken to assess the negative social implications associated with gaming. The impact of violence and depictions of gender and race stereotypes that appear in some video games are top of the list. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the amount of time spent playing video games, especially in children and young adults.
Next mission: mental health
Transparency is a core attribute of sustainable investing, both in terms of how sustainable development is incorporated and in the subsequent reporting of the results. In a breakthrough study with Oxford University, gaming firms Nintendo and EA allowed researchers to use real anonymised play-time data, rather than self-reported and estimated figures, to analyse the impact on participants mental health. The study found that participants playing Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons and EA’s Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville reported feeling happier than those who had not played.3 This is contrary to other reports on gaming which have suggested that the more people play video games, the unhappier they feel. One possible reason for this discrepancy could be the social nature of the games in the study whereby players could interact with other users in order to build a positive environment around them. This is especially important in recent times where COVID-19 induced lockdown measures have led to reduced social interaction and loneliness.
Attention and emotional processes are closely linked in the brain and a recent study analysed the link between memory games and emotional functioning. The results suggested that simple memory and cognitive exercises, such as Nintendo’s Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety among teenagers.4
Getting 1UP on obesity
The sedentary lifestyle associated with video games can be a health concern for children, who often opt for gaming and watching television instead of spending time outdoors and keeping active. With over 340 million children and teens classed as obese5, encouraging an active lifestyle from a young age is imperative. Nintendo was an early adopter of parental controls on its systems, allowing parents to set maximum playing times and enforcing breaks to prevent prolonged activity.
The company’s games are unique in design, focusing on movement and action as a core element of play. The Wii Fit uses motion sensing capabilities via the Wii remote to enable players to participate in virtual games of tennis, boxing, baseball, and more. The continued development and promotion of Nintendo’s active games such as Ring Fit Adventure and Pokémon GO also encourages users to get off the sofa and engage in new ways. Ring Fit is an exercising action role-playing game utilising a Pilates ring and leg strap. Pokémon GO is now one of the most successful mobile games of all times, becoming the most downloaded mobile game ever in its first month of release.6 The augmented reality game uses GPS to locate and battle virtual Pokémon creatures in real-world locations, encouraging players to go outdoors. As well as being loved by children, these games are enjoyed by adults too, meaning that all ages can reap the benefit of exercise.
1Statista, Video game market value worldwide from 2012 to 2020, 2021.
2Marketwatch.com, Videogames are a bigger industry than movies and North American sports combined, thanks to the pandemic, 2 January 2021.
3N. Johannes, M. Vuorre, A. Przybylski, Video game play is positively correlated with well-being, November 2020
4 L. Ackermann, Brain Training Games May Reduce Teenagers’ Vulnerability to Depression and Anxiety, Psychiatric Times, Volume 36, Issue 6, 5 June 2019.
5World Health Organisation, April 2020.
6Guiness World Records, News, August 2016.
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