Has Gaming Become a Problem?
As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing isn’t so good anymore.”
This is true for all vices, including gaming. Playing video games is fun, it’s a good way to let off steam and tune out from day-to-day stress for a while, and there are even proven cognitive benefits. But spending too much time playing video games puts you at risk of developing an addiction.
The concern is so great the World Health Organization (WHO) recently added gaming addiction to its list of official health concerns. And the organization isn’t the only one concerned about too much gaming.
Recently, radio talk show host Joe Rogan discussed his problems with gaming and cited his gaming addiction as the reason he struggles to behave like a responsible adult.
Rogan talked about his choice to go cold turkey and completely give up gaming after his addiction caused him to develop symptoms similar to those that an alcoholic experiences. He describes spending up to 12 straight hours gaming and experience stomach pain and sweaty palms.
As a result of his problem gaming, Rogan now views the activity as a “waste of time for most people,” and says video games are a problem because they offer an opportunity to have fun but they don’t provide an opportunity to go anywhere or do anything exciting. He’s concerned about people, especially kids, failing to develop and get enough physical activity because of time spent gaming.
Rogan contrasted video gaming to studying martial arts, saying “… you can get obsessed with Jiu-Jitsu and three years later you are an elite Jiu-Jitsu athlete and you’re entering into competitions and you’re a purple belt and you’re thinking maybe I’m able to open my own school someday. [With video games] …Three years later you could just be that same kid, playing video games, waiting for the next whatever the f*** game is…You’re gonna waste your time.”
But Experts Still Say Some Time Spent Gaming Can Be Healthy
Rogan’s comments upset gamers who shared their response on social media. Some pointed out that a lot of enjoyable activities are a waste of time, while others questioned why an activity needed to produce money to be worthwhile if it makes you happy and helps you relieve stress.
Some scientific evidence backs up the backlash against Rogan.
At least one new study confirms that video games are safe and do not increase someone’s likelihood to behave aggressively in real life. Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand looked at data from more than two dozen other studies to see if they could find a link between gaming and violent behavior. After their review, they concluded there is no link between playing violent games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto and real-world aggression.
According to the study’s leader, Aaron Drummond, “Overall, longitudinal studies do not appear to support substantive long-term links between aggressive game content and youth aggression. Correlations between aggressive game content and youth aggression appear better explained by methodological weaknesses and researcher expectancy effects than true effects in the real world.”
There is also evidence that gaming is beneficial for those who take a healthy approach to play.
A 2013 review of existing research found that playing video games improved a person’s capacity to think about objects three-dimensionally and was just as effective as academic courses designed to enhance these same skills. Playing video games has also been shown to help kids develop problem-solving skills. Some games also improve mood, promote relaxation, and ward off anxiety.
But just because gaming offers benefits doesn’t mean anyone should be playing video games for several hours a day, every day. It is possible to develop an addiction to gaming and the downside would outweigh any of the benefits.
What are the Tell-Tale Signs of a Gaming Problem?
Supporters of Rogan’s comments on social media pointed out how important balance and moderation are and that handled improperly, gaming can consume people’s lives.
It is possible to develop a gaming addiction. Symptoms of gaming addiction are similar to any other addiction and include:
- Preoccupation with gaming, even when not playing
- Needing to play more often to achieve the same effect
- Trying to limit the amount of time spent gaming but failing to do so
- Feeling restless or irritable when not gaming
- Using gaming to escape problems or avoid intense emotions, such as guilt, depression, or anxiety
- Lying about gaming habits
- Neglecting relationships and responsibilities to game
And a gaming addiction, like any other type of addiction, can destroy someone’s life. It can cause relationship problems, lead to poor work or school performance, and cause poor general health. Anyone who spends hours a day gaming likely isn’t eating a healthy diet or getting enough physical activity to maintain good health.
The best way to ensure gaming remains a healthy past-time and doesn’t become a habit is to recognize the symptoms of addiction and get help. If you believe gaming is interfering with your life or with your child’s life, you can talk to a doctor who can direct you to the appropriate resources to help you with the addiction.