Guest Post from David Hanson, Co-CEO of blockchain-powered gaming distribution platform Ultra, who is based in Shanghai, China.
Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Gaming Disorder a mental illness characterised by “impaired control” over gaming, where those affected have an unhealthy attitude to gaming which negatively impacts their lives.
This formal recognition by a global organisation, although important for the minority affected, may provoke needless fear and concern about the role the gaming industry plays in society.
Gaming is a cheap and easily accessible form of escapism, and a way of coping with the stresses of modern life. Gaming is unlike most stress relievers in its features and has the unique capability of providing a sense of accomplishment and belonging. It also improves hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and helps the mind process information more quickly. If you play games with a group or as a part of a team, immersing yourself in a game also serves the purpose of providing you with a sense of belonging. As a gamer, you are integrated into a community of like-minded individuals with a shared passion for gaming, be it for entertainment, education, career ambitions or even socialising.
Therefore, this move from the WHO may indirectly stigmatise the entire gaming industry, worth over $121 billion in 2017, and fails to acknowledge the huge benefits not only for individuals, but entire communities on a national and international level for their respective economies.
In a turbulent political and socio-economic climate where we can’t control the majority of our experiences, gaming can provide an outlet that’s healthy, supportive and fulfilling, where we are the masters of our own fate. Not everyone needs to play games with others to enjoy the same benefits. Single player games allow people to focus attention and energy on creating worlds, solving puzzles, managing time and resources, as well as is an outlet for personal downtime. Gaming can allow people to be creative and collaborative in ways that aren’t possible in the real world.
Like anything else that is enjoyable in life, moderation is everything. This isn’t limited to gaming but is true for other everyday activities including eating or exercising, which can have detrimental consequences when done excessively.
The solution to gaming disorder does not lie in placing further blame on the gaming industry, but creating frameworks for education, promoting transparency in the media, and instilling confidence and healthy attitudes in society, in particular among young people. If we want to resolve these issues, we have to provide support to those affected and take appropriate measures to ensure that the problem does not become more widespread.
At Ultra, we are integrating parental control features to protect children by enabling guardians to limit the type of games available and the amount of time children spend playing games. It is important to highlight the fact that many gamers, including myself, who have spent their childhoods behind screens — and continue to enjoy gaming throughout their adult lives — have not experienced any adverse effects. On the other hand, the key to ensuring that young people do not develop problematic relationships with gaming is in the hands of parents and guardians, who can encourage children to lead balanced lifestyles.