Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Opinion: Gaming, Addiction and What You Can Do

Chris Staniforth
Chris Staniforth, 20, died from a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis. He reportedly
played his xbox for nearly 12 hours at a time. Photo Courtesy NY Daily News.

If you've been following the news in the last couple of weeks, you'll have heard about the young man from Great Britain - Chris Staniforth - who died after experiencing a blood clot following a gaming session that last several hours.

According to a coroner, it is likely the clot formed in his calf muscle before moving to his lungs, where it then caused the blockage that would kill him.

It used to be that deep vein thrombosis - typically caused by sitting in the same position for long periods of time - was a concern for people who were travelling on long flights. However, according to the article, it's becoming more of a concern that gamers could be affected by the condition.

As someone who enjoys gaming quite a bit, I can tell you that I have definitely had my fair share of long gaming sessions. I've had those days where I've had nothing to do, so I set myself up on the couch and played until I couldn't play anymore.

But that's not something I've done on a regular basis. I don't feel compelled to play my games for hours on end and I realize that doing so would not be good for my health.

However, there are individuals who are not so fortunate to understand this. They feel a distinct need to play and to do so for hours upon hours. They are addicts.

"As with any addiction, video game or "gaming" addiction is usually a multi-faceted issue. For starters, video games are designed to be addictive. Not "addictive" in the clinical sense of the word, but game designers are always looking for ways to make their games more interesting and increase the amount of time people will spend playing them," said gaming help site Video-Game-Addiction.org.

It is thought that video game addiction often provides gamers similar highs - often via endorphin rushes - associated with some drugs. Whether it's from playing against yourself or other players for that high score for hours or playing online games that allow you to feel the power of being someone or something else via role-playing, players are given a feeling that, many times, they can't or aren't finding from their every-day lives.

If anything, Mr. Staniforth stands as an unfortunate example of what can happen when an addiction to gaming gets out of control. However, he can also stand as way to shed light on the fact that sometimes, people need help and that someone with a gaming hobby might be more than just interested in games, but addicted instead.

Some of the signs of gaming addiction in adults? Losing interest in friends and family or functions because you'd rather be gaming; feeling pressure from the slightest of things related to video games and guilt/grief when you don't achieve them, even if they aren't real; putting off or blocking out real responsibilities for the sake of completing levels in a game; finally, playing for more than four or five hours at a time when one or two is more than enough.

If you know someone who might be addicted to gaming, take a moment to talk to them about it. They may be resistant, but making them aware that you are concerned is at least a step in the right direction.

As for yourself, if you feel like you're walking a fine line, take some steps to back off a bit. If you've been playing for a while, save your game and do something else for an hour or two. Stand up and stretch/walk around if you've been sitting too long.

Are your friends bugging you to hang out? Turn of the console and indulge them - have fun with REAL people.

Remember, gaming is meant to be fun - not dangerous and invasive. As much as I love gaming, I love my life and the people in it more. There will always be time for gaming. Friends and family? Not always.

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