2018 has been a year where gaming has reached an all time high. With the rise of new Battle Royale video games like Fortnite and Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Blackout, the open world exploring games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, and the massive esports scenes of League of Legends, Overwatch, Dota 2, etc., gaming has never been played and watched this much by so many people a very long time. Because of the countless hours of engaging content that these games provide, it has become important to examine how gaming can have an effect on our health. By no means does this post intend to discourage gaming and gamers, I personally would love for more people to play video games for the untold amount of enjoyment that it gives an individual. I will go into details about a couple topics that are apparent in gaming and must be aware of in order to prevent any adverse health issues that may arise.
Coming from a diehard gamer for the past 16 years, I have experienced for myself how video gaming can take your focus for hours on end and lead to large amounts of time in a sedentary state. With the constant immobility and physical inactivity, this could lead to increased risk of weight gain and obesity. According to the Journal of Media Psychology (2014), "time spent with the still-popular, more traditional form of games in which the user typically sits and merely activates buttons on a hand-held controller may have negative implications for maintaining a healthy BMI, and thus be associated with higher health risks" With this knowledge, it should known that more time spent on video games could very well lead to adverse health effects. This makes it important for all gamers to be aware of the amount of time they are playing and should make a conscious decision to attempt to some sort of physical activity to compensate for that time playing.
As with anything in life, doing too much of one activity for significant period of time can cause a plethora of issues. For gaming, one issue that may arise is the development of a condition called Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD). According to the Journal of Health Psychology (2017), ", IGD comprises a behavioural pattern encompassing persistent and recurrent engagement with both online and offline games, leading to significant impairment or distress over a 12-month period (APA, 2013). Thus, IGD may be indicated when a person endorses at least five out of the nine following criteria: (1) a preoccupation with games; (2) withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away; (3) tolerance, resulting in the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in games; (4) unsuccessful attempts to control participation in games; (5) loss of interest in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, games; (6) continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems; (7) deceiving family members, therapists or others regarding the amount of gaming; (8) the use of games to escape or relieve negative moods and (9) jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or education or career opportunity because of participation in games." While this condition is one of the most severe, it is important to note due to the massive audience that video gaming draws, it allows for more people to be susceptible to developing IGD. I love playing video games and it's my favorite hobby, however I am cautious to not let it affect other aspects of my life. There have been days where all I want to do is just to stay home, and participate in gaming for hours on end and every so often I do take the day off to relax and play some games. However, it is important to not let excessive gaming to become a recurring habit that develops out of control. According to Computers in Human Behavior (2013), "The relationship between video game use and social interaction becomes even more complex in the case of problematic video game players (PVGPs). These are players who demonstrate what some researches have deemed as addiction-like behaviors in relation to video games." Problematic video game players are at a higher risk of developing adverse health conditions like IGD, weight gain and obesity due to the chronic nature of their playing. Being aware of the signs of IGD and staying active are essential to an individuals health.
While gaming is my, and many others, favorite spare time hobby that makes us happy and entertained for hours on end, but it is important to recognize how too much of it can negatively impact your health. Personally, gaming is stress relief that allows a disconnect from my day to day life and brings me so countless enjoyment from the wins that I get and the friends that I have made through online gaming communities. However, it is important for a gamer to recognize when that gaming is too much. Being aware of the signs of IGD and taking measures to avoid the increase of weight gain that a sedentary lifestyle that gaming promotes is essential. With that being said, go enjoy your favorite game and have a great time!
Collins, & Freeman. (2013). Do problematic and non-problematic video game players differ in extraversion, trait empathy, social capital and prosocial tendencies? Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), 1933-1940.
Männikkö, N., Ruotsalainen, H., Miettunen, J., Pontes, H., & Kääriäinen, M. (2017). Problematic gaming behaviour and health-related outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105317740414.
Scharrer, E., Zeller, A., Friedrich, Bettina, & Unz, Dagmar. (2014). Active and Sedentary Video Game Time. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 26(1), 39-49.
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