Fortnite, PUBG and Minecraft have become household names and the gaming industry today stands at a revenue of over 139 billion dollars. Due to live streaming being at the forefront of this escalation, thousands of live streamers have found themselves making profitable careers out of filming themselves play. This year, the Fortnite Championship took place in New York City with the winning prize being 30 million dollars. However, in the midst of all the glitz and glamour that the gaming industry has become associated with, there are a host of downfalls as well that are being frequently dismissed as the industry continues to grow and thrive.
In the public discourage about gaming, the most common conversation is that of the positive side effects that gaming can have on the health of players. It is true that there are certainly positive aspects to gaming; studies have shown the improvements on health that can be seen when you incorporate gaming into your life. This includes increased cognitive function, hand-eye coordination, dexterity and attention span. Amidst this, the conversation has shifted from focusing on the negative side effects of increased gaming despite the fact that it’s arguably a far more significant and relevant discussion.
With the increase of celebrity gamers and professional gaming tournaments, for many youngsters it has now become a genuine goal to achieve success through gaming. The industry itself has invested heavily to sell this dream too by partnering with streamers and celebrities and selling the idea that you too can reach this level of success if you just devote yourself enough. What these gaming enthusiasts often times overlook is the rarity of actually achieving this and in devoting themselves to gaming full-time, instead of reaching a goal of fame and fortune they are far more likely to see a detrimental effect to their health and relationships.
Last year, the World Health Organisation updated it’s guidelines to include ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition. This year, it was announced that a gaming rehabilitation centre will be opening up in Abu Dhabi and the NHS will be offering treatment for gaming addicts. Gaming addiction, defined as a pattern of problematic or compulsive behaviour where the user prioritises gaming over all other activity, has become a serious affliction which has intensified in proportion to the rise of the gaming industry.
A pathological addiction to gaming can cause a development of anxiety, social isolation and depression. Additionally, the adverse physical effects include strain on eyes, weight gain, poor hygiene and increased muscle tension due to lack of physical activity. This is worsened when you learn that game developers intentionally attempt to make their games addictive to encourage more play time.
Moreover, due to the fact that gaming stimulates certain areas of the brain such as the cortex and and prefrontal lobe, it essentially hijacks the decision makers areas of the human mind. As a result, it can cause increased aggressive tendencies in users as well as a lack of control where they prioritise gaming above all else in their lives. There are no shortage of stories about gaming addicts whose lives have been taken over by their addiction.
Although there are ways to encourage healthy gaming such as taking regular breaks and limiting play time, it is more important for the conversation about gaming to be all inclusive thereby bringing light to the risks associated with an unchecked level of gaming.
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