Gaming Addiction; A real problem!

Will others follow China in recognising this issue?

China takes the first step in the worlds largest gaming market to limit children’s gaming as Chinese technology giant Tencent is introducing tough new rules to identify under-age gamers, putting gaming addiction under the spotlight.

I have a teenage brother who has a gaming console. I am a witness to the daily fights between my mother and him over time management of playing games and doing homework. Boys don’t visit each other any more as they just ‘meet’ and play online especially on the latest worldwide craze, Fortnite (owing its popularity to the fact that this global game is free to download).

In addition to the domestic tensions, we also see a growing health risk as more and more children indulge in these games at ages as young as 5. With new technology, gaming consoles are also fairly cheaper to buy with various different types available in the market. So how did this seemingly innocent time pass be associated with gaming additions and health hazards?

China is leading the drive as the official Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary published on Tuesday:

For the nation’s future, we can never allow gaming companies to hunt for wealth by inducing teens to get addicted [to games]

This article came after authorities published a document which mentioned that the State Administration of Press and Publications (a newly formed gaming regulator) will limit the amount of time children spend gaming and the number of new online games.

Aside from these they will also put into place an age appropriate reminder system for their games.They have taken such a step because they believe it is not only bad for health, but also will make kids neglect their studies.

In addition, such games also mislead them with incorrect world views that “bury hidden dangers in the society”, according to the Xinhua commentary. Due to this, China’s gaming industry suffers it’s slowest growth in a decade waiting on the governments approval of new games.

However, many children, especially gamers, refuse to see the dangers of their habits due to believing that they will never get to that level.

But, is gaming an addiction? 

The WHO [World Health Organisation] seems to believe so as it has now recognized gaming as a potential addiction. How did this happen? Stereotypically parents reward their sons for an achievement with a game or console to show their love and encourage them to keep working hard.

Thus, it truly breaks their heart to see that their reward actually becomes a topic of conflict between them and their child. Due to the competitive nature of the game as gamers battle each other for supremacy, children begin to overuse the game or they prioritize gaming over studies.

Therefore, it is often seen that parents confiscate the console in order to push their child to focus on themselves again.

“It consumed my life” Is how Ian, a patient inside a gaming treatment center described his addiction. He continued to describe how it happened:

“I was working, I had a family, so it was a slow progression. But then – and it sounds really weird when I say it now – I started thinking about it at work, and the first thing I’d do when I got home was start up the internet and game”.

Although, this small hobby may only become a worry for a small number of gamers, it is very important to be aware of this potential of addiction. That way you can insure that you or a loved one never reaches that extreme like Ian who would start playing on Friday and get up on Sunday night.

What are the symptoms, effects and treatment?

Many countries, including UK have private addiction clinics to treat this growing problem. As with any addiction the first step to solving every issue is to realize that you have an issue.

Thus, its important to understand the symptoms and effects. Which include:

  1. An increased priority given to gaming
  2. Escalation of gaming despite the fact that it may have negative consequences on your health
  3. Loss of control over this ‘hobby’.
  4. Playing video games to alter their mood, according to researchers at Kansas State University. The person begins to describe gaming as a ‘need’; something they become irritable without.

There are also physical symptoms such as:

  1. Poor personal hygiene
  2. Hormonal disturbances due to sleep deprivation.
  3. A ‘gamers thumb’ as referred by the American Physical Therapy Association. This is “epetitive use injury characterized by tendonitis and swelling”.
  4. Weight gain due to less physical activity.
  5. Their social habits tend to change as they begin isolating themselves to sit in front of their computer screen alone; missing out on important social development.

Sometimes this can even prove to be fatal, as a Seattle tech-addiction expert explained, many have died from anxiety induced heart attacks and blood clots which are results of the unhealthy lifestyle.

Similar to other addictions, treatment includes counselling and behavior modification. The key is just to ask for help and stay away from triggers while continuing treatment. But the first step is identifying the issue within yourself; the hardest part.

Gaming is no longer an innocent time pass or a break between studies.

Children and parents alike should be aware of the potential problems and recognize them as they occur. Help is never far away but as with all problems, its best to step in early.