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Online gaming: Addictive villain or brain's best friend?

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)
Filed on January 21, 2020 | Last updated on January 21, 2020 at 06.17 am

Didn't we agree a few years ago that playing video games was good to maintain a sharp mind?

Consider this: Gaming and gambling are just two letters apart. The two are, unfortunately, equally addictive and injurious to health. Since late last year, internet gaming disorder has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a mental health condition, requiring the same approach (treatment) as would addiction to, say, gambling or substance abuse. The prevalence of gaming disorder is growing, and so is the intensity of its addiction. The last few months have seen several casualties of the affliction, with this weekend witnessing the death of a 20-something Indian from 'excitement' while he was playing the deathly PubG (PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds).

The PubG addict collapsed while playing the violent game, with doctors maintaining that he suffered a heart attack as his nerves got stretched in excitement, blocking the flow of blood through them. This is something that must make anyone who has even a remote connection with video games stop in their tracks and think - hard. I personally enjoy the occasional Angry Birds on my mobile while waiting for a meeting to start (or end) but never gave it another thought until now. Am I addicted to the game? What is addiction really? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, addiction is 'a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behaviour, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.'

I am safe (probably) since I can stay away from the game for a reasonable while without getting anxious or irritable, or trembling or throwing up. But there's another thing. Is gaming really so bad? Didn't we agree a few years ago that playing video games was good to maintain a sharp mind? I used to be the proud top-scorer of Space Invaders in our neighbourhood arcade. Effectively, it seems, it all boils down to the dosage. Excess of everything is bad, and it gets worse if you don't heed the warning signs. It's no different from binge-watching or munching on your favourite snack. It's escapism, and that's something that should remain rationed. Real and surreal are just three letters apart, after all.


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