GAMING WORLD

Addictive gaming is a 'disorder of concern' - WHO

Candy crush toping the list as it is played by all age groups from 4 years to 50.

In Summary

• According to technical expert Baaru Muchiri, gaming addiction is built to trigger the brain in the same way as addictive drugs.

• Candy crush topping the list as it is played by all age groups from 4 years to 50.

candy crush
Gaming candy crush
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Schools are closed, kids can now put away the books for a while and play the Playstation or use their phones for games.

For most people, gaming is an enjoyable hobby and a great way to bond with friends and family but for some, it can be more than that, a disorder? Maybe.

Gaming addiction has been listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organization.

Kenya is one of the most prominent video gaming hubs in Africa.

One out of 10 Kenyans of all ages especially teens, pre-teens and adults above 23 years are addicted to gaming.

From Candy Crush, Mortal Kombat, Fifa football, NBA, Minecraft, Hunter Assassin, Kung Fu karate: Fighting Games,  Asphalt 8: Airborne, casino games and Dream League Soccer 2020; these are the most downloaded and played games in Kenya in 2021. 

Candy crush topping the list as it is played by all age groups from 4 years to 50.

The addiction is characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

The cause of video game addiction is that video games are built to become addictive.

According to technical expert Baaru Muchiri, gaming addiction is built to trigger the brain in the same way as addictive drugs.

“Gaming triggers the release of dopamine, a chemical which reinforces the behaviour. As a person wants to “Win”. For this reason, playing video games can be an addictive stimulus,” Muchiri said

Feelings of irritability or restlessness when one is unable to play, self-isolation, preoccupation with thoughts of the previous online activity or anticipation of the next session are among the emotional signs and symptoms Muchiri attributed to gaming addiction.

A person gaming
Gamig A person gaming
Image: Times magazine

While symptoms of fatigue, poor personal hygiene, painful hands and fingers, migraines caused by intense concentration or eye strain and laziness are some of the physical signs and symptoms of gaming addiction.

Accompanied by long term effects, Muchiri identified poor sleep and diet as some of the long term effects of video gaming. Among those, addicts find a hard time socializing with people in person.

“It is not crazy to find them having no friends, others hide in the name of introverts or online friends, this may greatly reduce their public speaking skills or lower their confidence levels,” Muchiri said.

Even though recovery is not easy, Muchiri said that therapy and various medications can help with the symptoms and the first step of overcoming addiction is being able to recognize the dependency.

“Parents and partners should help them seek professional guidance as gaming addiction has been linked to depression, sleeplessness, overeating and under eating as well as substance abuse,” he said

He also said that now, even adults as old as 30 years are also addicted to gaming.

Game help Kenya is an organization that is available locally that can help gaming addicts.

Edited by D Tarus