Keerthika Mathialagan, M.B.B.S., Steven Lippmann, M.D.
To remain socially connected amid COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, many people utilize virtual platforms through online gaming. Approximately two-thirds of all Americans play video games daily, and quarantining measures increased usage of such online practices to facilitate peer relationships (1). The World Health Organization and numerous gaming companies promote initiatives like “PlayApartTogether” to encourage gaming to maintain personal connections (2).
Online gaming can be a good stress-relief coping technique. However, for a small, vulnerable portion of the population, it could induce gaming addiction and predispose someone to an internet gaming disorder. The International Classification of Diseases has newly identified this type of addiction as a gaming disorder (3). To be diagnosed, the game-playing pattern must exist for a year in a sufficient degree to cause impaired function in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas. Those affected no longer have a healthy balance of gaming in their lifestyle.
Quaranteening to avoid COVID-19 contagion concerns yields a robust invitation to internet gaming. Without a busy, out-of-the-home routine, prolonged gaming habits can reinforce maladaptive lifestyle patterns, negatively affecting sleep, cognition, relationships, and emotional well-being. Known as “gamers”, some of those affected may experience prolonged difficulty to limit their gaming-time and/or return to their previous pre-COVID routines.
Prevention could include setting time limits for gaming; that could help people avoid developing recurrent behaviors leading to an addiction. For children and adolescents, formulate alternative methods for safe, healthy social connections. Although online gaming might also be beneficial initially during such crises, identifying those at risk and awareness of the ill-effects of gaming is crucial. Health care professionals should be alerted, inform their colleagues and others about this concern, and help those afflicted develop a therapeutic regimen to deal with this pandemic-related dysfunction.
- American Psychiatric Association. Internet Gaming. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming. Accessed August 27,2020.
- PlayApartTogether Campaign. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200328005018/en/Games-Industry-Unites-Promote-World-Health-Organization. Accessed August 27,2020.
- World Health Organization. Gaming Disorder. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/gaming-disorder. Accessed August 27, 2020.