Gaming addiction a global challenge - GulfToday

Gaming addiction a global challenge

Gaming addiction a global challenge

Globally, there have been raising concerns about health, worsening near-sightedness and online obsession that the addiction causes among children.

Gaming addiction has become a worldwide phenomenon that needs to be treated in the same way as other common addictions, as the UAE’s leading rehabilitation body, the National Rehabilitation Center, NRC, points out.

Globally, there have been raising concerns about health, worsening near-sightedness and online obsession that the addiction causes among children.

In May 2019, the World Health Organisation, WHO, added gaming addiction to its International Classification of Diseases, ICD, a highly regarded compendium of medical conditions.

It describes gaming addiction as “characterised 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”.

According to WHO, for gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

As Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, Director General of the NRC, outlined: “The inclusion of gaming addiction to the International Classification of Diseases has helped us understand the seriousness of this issue in the UAE and around the world. It not only provides us with the ability to develop the programmes and resources required to help those in need, but it also gives us the opportunity to study its prevalence and to develop treatment recommendations to this condition.”

Video Games, and in particular mobile gaming remains extremely popular in the UAE.

According to a study by the gaming analytics firm Newzoo in 2019, the UAE is consistently ranked amongst the world’s top 100 gaming markets based on revenue source, with more than 80 per cent of smartphone users in the UAE identifying themselves as ‘mobile gamers’.

The popularity of video games in the UAE means that the potential for addiction is always a possibility and we can anticipate more comprehensive studies into gaming addiction that can lead to guidelines to limit screen and gaming time, as Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi points out.

In this background, the decision of the National Rehabilitation Centre to open an outpatient clinic next year at its premises in Abu Dhabi to serve both Emiratis and expatriates in the country is a sensible and laudable step.

It is good that the NRC is joining hands with Japanese experts who have conducted a study about gaming addiction in Japan.

Just last week, China imposed a curfew to limit the time spent by children playing games online, in the latest part of a government crackdown on youth gaming addiction.

The regulations mean those under 18 cannot play games online between 10pm and 8am, and for only ninety minutes at a time during the daytime.

In addition, the guidelines will reduce the amount of money minors can spend online playing games to 200 RMB ($28) per month, rising to 400 RMB for those between 16 and 18 years old.

The new rules will also require all gamers to use a real-name registration and details such a WeChat account, phone number or ID number to sign up.

China is the world’s biggest video game market, but the government has been tightening up on the industry amid concerns about health and worsening near-sightedness in children.

Last year, Beijing announced new controls on the number of games that can be played online, limited new releases, and imposed rules on underage players to reduce their screen time.

Prevention is always better than cure.