Online gaming: Time to hit pause 

Gamers from Delhi-NCR stress on why it is important for youngsters to enjoy online gaming without falling prey to compulsive behaviour.
Time to hit pause
Time to hit pause

Those growing up in the 90s and early 2000s would remember a time when one had to plead with their parents so they would fund a visit to the cyber café just to indulge in an hour (or more) of computer games. Games such as Road Rash and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City were the be-all and end-all for many youngsters back then.

However, over the years, the gaming culture has evolved worldwide. With mobile phones and other electronic gadgets becoming part and parcel of a person’s life, gone are the days when you had to save your pocket money in order to spend an hour in cyberspace. There is no doubt that, to an extent, technological advancement has been a boon, both for gaming and gamers—apart from helping relieve stress, it is known to improve problem-solving skills, dexterity, etc. The flip side of this, though, includes cyber addiction in many adolescents.

“The web is an addictive experience because of the amount of information out there. It is quite understandable for many children to be addicted,” shares Faridabad-based clinical psychologist Dr Srividya Rajaram.

While India is not new to crimes triggered due to gaming addiction, the recent reports of a young boy from Lucknow allegedly killing his mother after she forbade him from playing PUBG—an online battle royale game—has brought the issue of gaming addiction to light again. On Tuesday, there were reports of new revelations in this case, with the Research Wing of the Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights allegedly probing the case now.

In another report, a 15- year-old boy allegedly died by suicide in Andhra Pradesh after being mocked for losing a PUBG match on Sunday. In fact, as per a recent study in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health 2020, about 3.5 per cent Indian adolescents suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)—a behavioural disorder associated with online gaming addiction. “Adolescents have a constant craving for enjoyment. If not kept in check, this can turn into addiction. A person addicted [to gaming] is being controlled by an external force and someone stopping them from indulging in the addiction usually results in aggressive behaviour,” adds Dr Srividya. In such a scenario, it is extremely important to evaluate the severity of online gaming addiction.  

Aashi competing in an online game
Aashi competing in an online game

Impact of the lockdown

The pandemic-induced lockdown has also resulted in an increase in time spent on gaming. “Being stuck at home indefinitely, adolescents needed something to entertain themselves. Games have been a part of growing up. With no physical space available, this has shifted to the virtual space,” says Laxmi Nagar-based professional gamer Aashi, who goes by the name Savage Girl. Pitampura-resident Gavnish Khurana, also a gaming enthusiast, adds, “During COVID-19, we had a lot of time. I feel gaming became a habit back then. Many did not feel the loss of time, which resulted in an excess of the habit.”

The root cause

 Gamers point out that anything in excess will result in an addiction.  “Nothing should be done in excess. People go overboard with their gaming time and that is when issues arise,” adds Rajouri Garden-resident and professional gamer, Simar Sethi who uses the moniker Psy for gaming. According to Aashi, the problem is not in the games played, but in being unable to identify the compulsive behaviour due to a loss of control. “People need to understand that the games are not the issue. Being able to make designated time differences for both the game and their time in the real world, is what many adolescents fail to achieve,” she adds.

 Apart from the psychological consequences, continued gaming can also have drastic effects on physical health. Sethi, who cites his own example, shares, "I have Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) in my hands. It was because, during my childhood, I had not taken good care of my physical health." He adds, "Every e-sports athlete is always advised to train physically so that they are at the top of their game."

Having a stable routine

 It is important that an online gamer establishes boundaries which will help create a sense of stability. Having a designated schedule for gaming, which does not exceed four hours a day, is recommended. "Don't forget that it is a game and that you should control it, not the other way round," mentions Khurana. Stressing on how one should not compromise on their education due to gaming, Sethi concludes, "While gaming has been instrumental in my life, there have been times when I think if it was not for gaming, what would I have done. Prioritising your studies can help open up other avenues."


Giving advice on what parents can do for adolescent gamers, Dr Srividya Rajaram shares...

1. Spend time with your children and talk to them.

2. Keep a check on in-game purchases. Have a better understanding of the games played to know more about the child’s psychology.

3. Educate children about cyber security.

4. Educate them about limits. It might not be easy, but parents need to give it a shot.

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