Video games are an enjoyable and fun pastime for over 2 billion people around the world. The video game industry accounts for about $89 billion in the United States alone. According to a report released by Limelight Networks, gamers play for an average of seven hours every week. Considering most gamers start in their late teens, a 30-year-old gamer will have spent a total of about five months of his or her life playing video games.
For some people, video game playing can turn into a disorder that they struggle with without even knowing. In 2018, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to the International Classification of Disease (ICD).
A gaming disorder is defined as the inability to stop playing despite detrimental effects on other aspects of one’s life for over a year. Such aspects may include school, work, social interactions, relationships, and sleep. Recognizing the seriousness of the condition, some drug, and alcoholic rehab centers are including options to treat gaming disorder as well.
The Controversy Behind Video Game Addiction
Ever since the classification by WHO in 2018, a lot of debate has occurred regarding the validity of the definition. At the heart of the argument is whether gaming is an addiction or a sign of an underlying health issue.
Some critics noted that the classification would harm children who play video games. They warned that it would lead to panic even though the decision didn’t necessarily mean that video games are harmful. Thus kids with regular gaming habits would be stigmatized as a result of the dissemination of incomplete information.
Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, agreed that video game addiction is more than the hours spent playing games. Overall, defining an addiction could be determined by how one’s everyday life is affected by gaming. This is a crucial issue that many critics might not understand.
Why Are Video Game Players Likely to Have an Addiction or Depression?
1. Video Games Can Affect the Brain
Over 100 studies have been conducted to determine the effect of video games on the brain. Recently the studies were summarized and published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a neuroscience journal. The review showed that video games change the function and even the structure of the brain.
Gaming improves one’s attention span since it requires attention over long periods. Brain areas responsible for paying attention are more developed in gamers. This is why one’s gaming time increases over time. With time, this is why a gamer can spend hours staring at a screen.
Researchers have also found that gaming has a profound effect on the brain’s reward system. This is the part of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction during and after an activity.
Video games are fun activities that increase the reward system’s firing in the same way that drugs and alcohol do. This is why gamers always look forward to playing a game instead of completing other tasks. For people who don’t have good self-control, this impulse to play can turn into a detrimental addiction.
Once a person prioritizes gaming over other activities, it leads to problems with relationships, school, and work. Once reality hits such people, depression and other adverse effects could occur.
2. It’s a Solo Activity Much of the Time
Most of the time spent on gaming is time spent alone. About 1.75 hours of gaming involve casual single-player games. This is compared to 0.99 hours spent on massively multiplayer online even games.
While being alone isn’t a bad thing, long periods spent alone are not essential for good mental health. Because video game addiction can isolate you from people, it can create effects that eventually lead to depression.
3. Gaming Is Sometimes Related to Drug Addictions
Gaming may sometimes be the result of feeling lonely and bored in your own company. This is why multiplayer online games like games in the Call of Duty series are so popular. However, such communities are not always online, and thus players might turn to drugs and alcohol for company when playing.
Taking drugs also makes the game more enjoyable for some people. Gaming could thus become an addiction because it’s also associated with other behaviors, such as the use of other drugs.
4. Addiction Could Relate to Jobs and School
Playing video games is only truly an addition if it interferes with one’s potential in other aspects. Multiplayer online games usually involve numerous people from all corners of the world. Thus, many gamers might find themselves awake in the wee morning hours to play.
Eventually, they might show up for work and school late and tired or not go in at all. In this state, work performance may drop significantly, especially if they play frequently. For students, late nights and very early mornings could eventually hurt their academic performance.
When school or work becomes problematic and frustrating, some people turn to drugs and alcohol. Many gamers, however, turn to gaming as it is their source of pleasure and comfort.
Most of the time, gaming is a fun activity that brings together people from all around the world. Like any other activity, any game’s true success is measured by how hard it is to leave.
Gaming addiction is not based on the number of hours gaming, but on how gaming affects other aspects of one’s life. Like anything, video games should always be used in moderation and with control (and controllers).
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.
limelight.com – The State of Online Gaming – 2019
who.int – ICD purpose and uses
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – News Feature: Is video game addiction really an addiction?
blog.frontiersin.org – Video games can change your brain
blog.frontiersin.org – Video games improve the visual attention of expert players
blog.frontiersin.org – Video game training and the reward system
aginglifecarejournal.org – Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness
aasm.org – College students: getting enough sleep is vital to academic success
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