More Indians are playing mobile games and many of them are spending more time than ever looking for loot and chicken dinner inside the virtual world. A lot of it is due to the Covid-induced lockdown in the last one and half years. According to a report by Cyber Media Research, the average time spent on smartphones in India spiked by 25 percent to 6.9 hours in April 2020. The same report noted that before Covid, the duration was 4.9 hours on average in 2019. Mobile gaming, in particular, has seen a 45 percent increase during Corona times.
While Indian phone users play more and more games, some of them are also getting addicted. They now either fall under the definition "gaming disorder" as WHO defines it or are near the borderline.
Chaitanya, a 23-year-old final year graduate student from Delhi, recalled how he was caught in a loop of addictive mobile gaming and how hard it was to come out of it.
"I would wait for my lectures to end or hurriedly have my meals just so I could resume PUBG on my phone. At times, I would even skip my meals for it," he tells India Today Tech.
Chaitanya recalls how once his phone froze when he played a game for nearly 8 hours without any break. "I went crazy. I can't explain exactly what the feeling was. It was mixed. I couldn't wait for my phone to restart. All I was worried about was my rank in the game. The worst happened when I started skipping my online classes. It was then I decided to take a break," he says.
Doctors and researchers are finding that mobile gaming addiction is quite a worry. Dr. Rachna Bhargava, a clinical psychologist at AIIMS, New Delhi talks about how mobile game addiction can affect someone's physical, psychological and social wellbeing. "Spending too much time on screen affects your eyes and posture. This starts taking a toll on one's psychological behaviour like skipping meals, lack of interest in social interaction and other activities. It also leads to interpersonal conflicts between families," she says.
Researchgate, a publication, recently conducted a study on medical students in Chennai playing mobile games. It was noted that there was a change in the behavioural pattern of these students. The report noted that of all the gamers, 25.3 percent of students were skipping sleep, 27.8 percent were using bad words, 50.6 percent were into betting, and 48.1 percent did risky stunts. Nearly half of the participants complained of health issues like neck pain, fingertip pain, wrist pain, and eye pain.
Paromita Halder, who owns an independent counselling clinic in a small part of Midnapore in Bengal, is starting to get young patients who suffer from anxiety and mood swings. In many cases, she finds links to gaming addiction and the conditions afflicting her patients.
"There is a connection. In games are killing people, using slang, doing stunts, or looting all the hours you are inside them. Over time, it can affect your cognitive abilities and push you to an extent where you need medical intervention," says Paromita.
The stories in extreme cases are truly extraordinary. And not in a good way. One of the most talked-about mobile gaming addiction cases that can be recalled was from Delhi in 2018. Two brothers were heavily addicted to mobile gaming and played for over 12 hours of game on their phones, skipping meals, hydration, and even loo breaks. The situation worsened when they started defecating and urinating in their pants.
It's not just doctors sounding an alarm. Even gamers feel the impact addictive gaming can have on their lives. An IANS report from 2020 states that about 87 percent of adults in Indian cities believe that online gaming takes a toll on their physical and mental well-being. In an online survey conducted by consumer cybersecurity brand NortonLifeLock among 1500 adults, it was found that 76 percent of them felt that addiction to action games led to changed behaviour and can increase depression and anxiety levels.
Professional gamers agree that too much of something is not good, even if it is video gaming. "Yes, addiction to anything is not good for both mental and physical health both. It may happen at times that a failure or losing a game can cause depression. There's no peace around, and it automatically starts taking a toll on your health," says Tauheed, a professional gamer.
Mohammed Owais, a professional gamer of 20 years old, has been living this life for three years. "I started playing professionally when I was just16 or 17. Online games are my passion which is why I decided to pursue my career in them. Mobile gaming addiction exists, but I feel pro gamers like those who are playing professionally have good self-control and know when to get off the screen," he says.
28-year-old Indranil Saha, another professional online gamer playing for a team called Sixth Sense, talks about how mobile gaming has changed his life. "Mobile gaming addiction definitely exists and I myself have seen a change in myself after starting online gaming. I was a sportsperson before this. I used to go out and play cricket, football and table tennis. I was also a gym freak, but it has all changed now. Ever since I've stepped into e-sports, I have fallen prey to gaming addiction," says Saha.
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