Online Gaming: Blessing Or A Curse?

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Person engaged in video games                                                                                         Photo Courtesy: GameObserver

Larger than the Hollywood movie industry, the online game industry is the fastest growing form of media entertainment. With its use of cutting edge technologies, online games involve the player in ever-more realistic, complex, and engaged gaming situations. Because of its high appeal, playing video games can be highly rewarding and also potentially addictive.

Gone are the days when people had slow internet connections and online gaming was limited to certain personnel only. In this era of growing internet activity, online games have evolved to be one of the best forms of entertainment to video gamers all around the globe. Sitting on your couch and playing with the best players from other countries (like Germany, Russia, you name it) sounds certainly appealing to most of the online gamers.

Like everything, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. Online gaming can develop critical thinking skills and increase memory. This form of gaming reinforces team-building skills and makes gamers think more strategically. Competitiveness is a result of online gaming that causes gamers to compare stats and profiles against a wide range of online players. Realizing that the opponent is not artificial intelligence naturally encourages competition. But all the above mentioned good things about online gaming can also be attained by outdoor games that additionally improve one’s physique and health.

But what about its negative consequences? The first of many is the addiction. Internet Gaming Disorder is an addiction to online video games, role-playing games, or any interactive gaming environment available via Internet. Online games such as “Grand Theft Auto”, “World of Warcraft”, the “Dark Age of Camelot”, or “Diablo II” – dubbed “Heroinware” by some players – can pose much more complex problems. Extensive chat features give such games a social aspect missing from offline activities, and the competitive nature of working with or against other players can make it hard to take a break.

Parents are increasingly alarmed about their children’s online gaming habits. One mother explained that she had talked to her son’s guidance counselor, the school psychologist, and two addiction rehabilitation centers. “No one had ever heard of someone getting addicted to X-Box Live,” she said. “They all told me it was a phase and that I should try to limit my son’s game playing time. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t. He had lost touch with reality. My son lost interest in everything else. He didn’t want to eat, sleep, or go to school, the game was the only thing that mattered to him.”

Parents often feel helpless and scared as their children become hooked on something that no one seems to understand. “My son’s counselor told me to just turn off the computer,” another mother explained. “That was like telling the parent of an alcoholic son to tell him to just stop drinking. We felt like no one was taking us seriously that our son had a real problem.”

Like drug addicts, people addicted to gaming show clear signs of addiction. Like playing almost every day, for extended periods of time (over 4 hours), getting restless or irritable if they can’t play, and sacrificing other social activities just to play the game. A study by psychologist Douglas Gentile has revealed that more than eight percent of gamers between the ages of 8 and 18 exhibit symptoms of video game addiction (or what he terms “pathological behavior”). The symptoms involve irritation, lack of interest in one’s surrounding, and showing signs of withdrawal syndrome every time they go offline for more than a few hours.

These are some social problems that tells us much about the growing internet based video games. But what about its negative impact on health? I mean, online gamers forget to smile, they forget themselves just because of something that does not even exist. That could pose some problems for their mental health. And, players sit on their couch all day long. That’s another fitness problem right there. While preparing this article, I became convinced that online gaming is something that we could do well to get rid of. But tell that to those people who have made billions off it. Some players even sell gaming characters for money (at a very high price). Players call it farming where they buy a character for a low price, develop it game-wise and sell it for a very high price. In a world full of problems, online gaming could prove to be a nasty one in the near future.