Video games have become exceptionally popular in the modern world, allowing millions of people to be entertained for hours on end playing their favorite titles. Through just the last couple of years, we have seen impressive advancements in video game technology that now provide players with life-like graphics and a more competitive way of playing than ever before.
The Entertainment Software Association estimated that around 60% of the American population plays at least one game each day. Furthermore, the association also recently found that at least 64% of all households in the United States have one or more members who play video games or computer games on a regular basis. Estimates of the popularity of video games in Africa are harder to come by. However, in a recent publication in the Bulawayo News, emphasis was placed on the fact that there is a rapid increase in the prevalence of mobile game addiction in the African population. In one study, Africa is also listed as one of the most concerning countries when it comes to gaming addiction.
While video games can be fun and many parents agree that gaming has a positive impact on the life of their children, the World Health Organization has recently issued a statement officially recognizing a condition known as gaming disorder. Adolescents, young adults and adults can also be affected by this disorder.
WHO Officially Recognizing Addiction To Gaming
The average person who enjoys playing games only spends a couple of hours each week on gaming. This is actually considered beneficial, as some studies have shown that certain games may actually have some health advantages to offer su. The problem that comes into play now is the fact that some gamers take things too far.
After noticing that there are gamers spending as much as 20 hours a day, and sometimes even more, on gaming activities, the World Health Organization decided to officially recognize a new condition that they call “Gaming Disorder.” Essentially, gaming disorder refers to a person who is addicted to gaming.
While the announcement of this newly classified condition may be alarming to some gamers, and especially to parents who do allow their children to play video games in the afternoon or perhaps on weekends, it is important to note that most gamers would not fall into this category.
The World Health Organization has stated that only some people who play games excessively would be considered addicted to gaming activities – and those who do play for extended hours each day may not fall into the new classifications that they have decided to implement. For example, if a student spends a lot of their free time during the long vacation playing video games but still manages to spend more time with friends and family members is this gaming disorder? The answer is no.
There are three specific “symptoms” that the World Health Organization uses in order to determine who should be considered to suffer from gaming disorder. It is important to note that simply playing for an extended period of time each day would not lead to the diagnosis of a person with this disorder. There are other elements that need to be taken into account – with the impact that gaming has on a person’s life being one of the more important elements.
Video game addiction is classified by the following symptoms:
- The gamer would find that they have an impairment in their ability to control their urge to continue gaming consistently.
- The gamer may experience a significant increase in playing games and, over time, this will turn out to have a huge negative impact on their life outside of the game.
- The person would continue and be unable to stop gaming, even as they notice that their life in the real world is being affected. For example, they might miss out on days at work and school. Their job may start to suffer, and they could even end up having their job on the line – yet they would continue to prefer gaming over going to work.
It has also been noted that many people who do go on to develop gaming disorder tend to disconnect from their social lives and even from family. Instead of socializing with their family and friends, these people would rather sit in their room and have their video game console on for the entire day. Physical symptoms may also develop. This includes fatigue and headaches. Many gamers also start to notice symptoms of carpal tunnel.
The World Health Organization has indicated that for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months
At the moment, opinions regarding the implementation of these new guidelines that could cause people to be diagnosed with gaming disorder are still mixed. While some people do think that this was a necessary step from the World Health Organization, others rather see it as inappropriate.
The criteria set out by the World Health Organization does not seem to affect too many gamers. In one study published in the International Journal of Health and Addiction, researchers reported that about 6.4% of gamers may be affected by gaming disorder.
One of the important reasons why this step was taken is likely due to the adverse effects that excessive gaming can have. People who sit in front of a television playing video games all day are not exposing their body to enough physical activity. This leads to obesity, which, in turn, causes a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, poor blood flow, cognitive impairment, osteoarthritis, and more. A sedentary lifestyle has also been linked to diabetes and cancer.
With all of these in mind, the psychological complications also need to be taken into account. Failure to socialize with others and withdrawal from events like family gatherings due to gaming disorder can have a detrimental impact on the gamer’s mental well-being. In turn, this makes the person more likely to suffer from conditions like depression, as well as experience symptoms of anxiety disorders when they do decide to embrace the outside world.
Preventing Video Game Addiction
These preventive measures are useful for adults who game and for parents who want to prevent this problem in their children:
- Set limits for gaming: Limit the number of minutes or hours you want to spend gaming and stick to it. This leaves you with time for other activities.
- Do other things every day: Even if you are on holidays, engage yourself with activities other than gaming. Exercise, visit friends, read a book. This gives you a good balance and reduces your need to game.
- Avoid factors that can make you spend too much time on video games: Set a limit to your screen time; keep your phones off or away in the bedroom to avoid gaming into the night; avoid friends that are obsessed with it.
With more people than ever before switching on video game consoles to spend some time gaming, the World Health Organization has noticed a trend where some people indulge too much into their gaming life. The organization has declared gaming disorder as an official condition that may affect a small number of gamers and could have a serious impact on their life.
Contributed by CUTICA Health Writers