Online games: Addiction to gaming can cause disruptive behaviour

Dr Samant DarshiUpdated: Saturday, February 19, 2022, 06:27 PM IST
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Gaming becomes problematic when it starts to cause significant impairment and distress in your psychological, biological, or social aspects of life./Representative Photo | /Pixabay

In today's world, we cannot imagine life without technology. From food processors to transportation, from work to entertainment, and even in maintaining relationships and connections, technologies have surely made their way into our lives.

Even during the pandemic, when everyone was home-bound and couldn’t get access to the outer world in reality, they found their comfort in technology, through social media, OTT or gaming.

The rise of gaming platforms has seen the emergence of behavioral disturbances or problematic behaviors related to gaming.

Gaming becomes problematic when it starts to cause significant impairment and distress in your psychological, biological, or social aspects of life. Problematic online gaming does not necessarily mean addiction which is a disorder with characteristic clinical features like craving, tolerance, withdrawal, and salience with or without disturbances in other spheres of life.

Prevalence of gaming disorder

Though it may seem like the pandemic has ejected us with a new angle, DSM 5 (DSM–5 is a manual for assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders) had already declared gaming addiction as a behavioral addiction in 2013, ICD has recently introduced it in its 11th edition. At Psymate we’ve been seeing an increase in the number of patient’s affected with gaming disorder. A marginal surge in gaming has been reported at all hours of the day, with an average peak period from 8 PM to 12 AM. Youngsters are the majority.

How can we classify these games?

● MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) are online games that have a large number of players present in the same virtual world at the same time and can play the game simultaneously. There are several types of MMOG, including:

1. MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). Here, role-playing means that the player takes an avatar in the game.

2. MMOFPS (Massive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter). These games are played from the perspective of the player character, with firearms and shooter combat playing an important role in the game play loop.

3. MMORTS (Massive Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy). They are played as war strategy games, with players taking on the role of a leader, commanding a kingdom or army, and making decisions that advance their cause.

Other types of games include online board games, puzzle games, simulator games, etc.

Online games can be completely free, as in games where the player does not have to pay at any point, neither for access to the game nor for the additional incentives. But as the world of gaming has progressed into the new era games usually begin as Free-to-play (F2P or FTP) , allowing players to access a large percentage of their material without having to pay.

Although you can play for free, some content will require micro transactions or other forms of payment to obtain. Then moving on to Buy to Play, in this, the player has to pay a certain amount before getting access to the game. However, they only have to pay once. After that, the new model is introduced as "Pay to play", in this case, a monthly subscription is required to get access to the game.

Why are online games so interesting and rewarding?

1. By adding the socializing features, which include:

● Activity feed: This allows users to share their in-app experience and track the progress of other users.

● In-game chats give the players a way to communicate while playing the game, eliminating the need to switch apps and having an elective experience.

● Players can be notified of various game activities, such as when it's their turn to play, when they want to send a challenge, and so on.

● Guilds: This feature allows gamers to form communities based on their common interests, playing styles, and involvement levels. People can trade stub, play games together, establish new friendships, and so on.

2. Inclusion of narrative and identity features. They are immersive and frequently tell a story that immerses you in a fictional universe. The story is similar to picking up a good book that makes you forget about your reality for a bit as you become engrossed in the character’s struggles and goals.

3. In games, a feedback feature is added, which is a reaction. The game reacts to the actions taken by the player and vice versa. Players are rewarded and punished in numerous ways, such as obtaining resources, discovering new regions, learning new skills, or losing health points or objects.

4. The inclusion of mood enhancement features and presentation features in the game, like graphics, 3D definitions, etc., makes the player want to go back to that beautiful world and stay for a longer period.

Red flags to be on the lookout for:

● You find yourself preoccupied with games for most of the day.

● Your inability to limit gaming time and failed attempts to stop it.

(The writer is a psychiatrist at Psymate Noida)

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