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Three months ago, in April, the World Health Organization (WHO) along with a few online gaming companies promoted a campaign called ‘Play Apart Together’. This was a move to encourage people to stay socially connected during the lockdown. But wait, the WHO itself in 2019 recognized ‘gaming disorder’ as one of a mental condition.

Does a doctor treating cancer ever promote smoking? That provides food for thought. Never mind, let’s focus on the issue in hand.

Online gaming is witnessing a boom amidst the global pandemic. In the times of restlessness and limited mobility, without an engaging alternative, online gaming has been a go-to option for a large part of the demography.

As the craze for online gaming grows, we can see a parallel increase in gaming-addiction related cases, cyberbullying, and many more. From psychological issues to privacy concerns, online gaming is a potent virtual drug.

Let’s Discuss a Few Downsides of Online Gaming:

Online Gaming in the times of Pandemic - PARA Learning1. Desensitization:

In psychology, desensitization is a process that diminishes emotional responsiveness to a stimulus after repeated exposure to it.
Similarly, regular exposure to violence and discrimination in the virtual space normalizes it in real life. This often reflects in an individual’s temper. They subconsciously justify their toxic attitude, while developing a thick skin to brutality and bias.

The concept of anonymity enhances the usage of profanity and discriminatory slurs. The fact that no one will know who said it and no real consequence furthers this toxic behavior.

“Sledging and foul mouthing is a part of the game, bro”

Well, not exactly. Pulling another player down, flaunting arrogance, and deriving pleasure out of it is purely toxic.
Empathy seems to be irrelevant in this virtual world, doesn’t it?

False Sense of Self-esteem - PARA Learning2. A False Sense of Self-esteem:

Human beings love having a feeling of accomplishment. The feel of mastery or control can immerse an individual.

Online games are designed keeping this in mind. The design intends to keep you hooked to the game for as long as possible. For this to happen, there are some factors. Of which, let’s focus on two major factors.

(a) Rewarding System:
We humans like our efforts to be acknowledged. A pat on the back by our senior or a vocal appreciation during a team meeting always is a good feeling.
Similarly, upon the completion of a task or a mission, the players are rewarded. The dopamine levels increase, keeping the players hooked to the game.

(b) Autonomy:
In video games, individuals are in a state of total control. Coupled with the idea of escapism, video games are nothing but the perfect life scenario.
Remember the night before an exam where you just wanted to skip the next day and you just couldn’t, that pain point is what these games thrive on. The games’ storylines seem realistic because the gamer’s vision is narrowed, drifting away from reality.

The multiplayer mode with its interactive gameplay induces a feel of relatedness.
These influence a gamer’s intrinsic motivation to play more, get better, all leading up to a false sense of self-esteem.

Sedentary Lifestyle - PARA Learning3. Sedentary Lifestyle:

Frequent gaming has for long been directly linked to health issues such as sleep deprivation and obesity. Well, makes sense when you’re stuck to a chair with limited mobility and continuous exposure to screen.

Lack of physical activity is quite synonymous with online gaming. We understand you can’t move while you’re gaming but taking time off to walk a little or even a power nap would work wonders.

It’s now past the eleventh hour for us to revisit our screen habits. Let’s also make it clear, it’s not an option no more, it’s a priority.

Online Gaming in the times of Pandemic - PARA Learning4. Privacy Concerns:

Wasn’t online gaming meant for fun and socializing? Yes, it was but it, unfortunately, is now a breeding ground for phishing, cyber-crime, and monetary frauds.

Sounds dark, isn’t it? With teenagers and youth forming an obvious majority of gamers, leveraging upon their innocence and robbing them is a golden opportunity.
The tendency to spend a couple of hundred rupees to get ahead of your peers at the game often acts as the window of opportunity for the cybercriminals to swoop in.

Okay, we have realized the darker side of online gaming, what next?

Online Gaming in the times of Pandemic - PARA LearningThe Dreaded Question, What is the Solution to Online Gaming?

The solution or the way out of this virtual life boils down to us, the consumers. Yes, online gaming during the pandemic does fill a little of the void. But, the extent to which we allow it to influence our daily lifestyle is in our hands.

Fore mentioned priority i.e., revisiting screen time isn’t as simple to execute as it is for me to write about it.
First off, let’s be realistic. Cutting off online games at once is an impractical move. However, we can minimize it. Don’t let your daily schedule revolve around your gaming time.

Another crucial element here is not about minimizing, but what you do during the extra time that you now have in your hands. Socializing with friends and family is advisable, as it helps weed off anxiety.

Repurposing the screen time to learning new skills via virtual platforms is also a great alternative. If ever there was a good, say even a great time to learn or try your hand at different skills, this is it.

“With increasing screen time, you decide what screen deserves your time” – Abishek Iyappan.

-Lakshman Prabhu
Intern, PARA Learning

Lakshman Prabhu

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