(In a horrific case coming out of Karnataka, a boy has allegedly killed his father for taking away his phone and cutting the internet connection to prevent him from playing PUBG, a popular online game. We are republishing the article in this context.)
The popular game PUBG, which has millennials glued to their phone screens these days, has proved to be problematic for a bunch of 10 people, including six college students, were arrested in Gujarat's Rajkot city in the last two days for allegedly playing the PUBG game on their mobile phones despite the police banning it.
Police Commissioner Manoj Agrawal on March 6 issued a notification banning the online games PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) and 'Momo Challenge' in the city.
As per the police commissioner's notification, the ban was necessary as these games were leading to violent behaviour among children and youth. The games were adversely affecting the studies and the overall behaviour, conduct and language of children, the notification said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) now recognises ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition.
So what does this disorder feel like? Here’s a personal blog by someone who was a video game addict.
I’m no stranger to addiction.
I’ve been addicted to many things. Coffee, food, alcohol…you name it.
Video games were my first addiction. After a lot of pestering (from both my older brother and I), my parents bought us a Playstation 2 in 2002. To a twelve-year-old who had been diagnosed with ADHD, this was like crack, but with awesome flashing lights and the ability to kill things.
On the first day, I played for approximately 12 hours. Maybe more. I don’t know exactly. All I remember was I set up the Playstation 2 around 10 am and the next thing I know it was around 10.30 pm.
Soon, I was spending an average of 8-10 hours playing on the PS2. On days I didn’t have school, I played for anywhere from 12 to 15 hours every day. Maybe more.
I loved God of War, Resident Evil 4, Timesplitters, Devil May Cry 3, Burnout, and a ton of other games.
The first time my mother locked up the PS2 was because I wasn’t studying enough. Or was it because I wasn’t getting any exercise? I can’t recall why.
My mother locked it up in her cupboard when she went to work. I was livid. How dare she? How could she do this? I was experiencing palpitations, I was anxious, irritable and extremely stressed. And this was barely 2-3 hours after she locked up my Playstation. How. Dare. She. My hands were shaking, I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know this back then, but I was experiencing symptoms that are associated with addiction.
I forced our cleaning lady to give her copy of the key and unlocked my mother’s cupboard, and quickly set up the Playstation 2.
I plugged it in and switched it on, and the moment the loading screen and the sound came on (you’ll know the sound if you hear it), I felt this immense wave of happiness, this unbelievable sense of relief. It felt like waves and waves of relief were washing over me. And I felt shame. I felt shame that I was so weak.
The other issue was my health. I didn’t really pay attention to the nutrition I was getting. Ask most gamers and they’ll tell you something similar. The biggest concern I had about the food I was eating was that it should be easy to eat while playing, that it should be delicious, and that it was something fried.
No one wants to eat cucumbers and carrots while they’re playing video games. We want the comfort of sugar, of deep-fried food, and the reassurance that it offers. Plus, junk food is really easy to overeat.
I was already an overweight child, but all the time I spent sitting and playing for hours only made me gain more weight. Soon, I was a teenager who had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. This meant I was on the verge of becoming diabetic even before I turned 18.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Another incident I remember very clearly happened some time after this: My mother, after trying repeatedly to get me to listen and stop playing video games, reached out to a cousin of mine.
He was approximately 8 years older than me, and I looked up to him, so I guess that’s why she called him. I remember this very vividly: I’m sitting on my couch, playing Timesplitters, and my cousin was sitting with my mother on the sofa on the other side, trying to talk to me about my “addiction”.
He’s telling me how my mom is upset. I’m still playing. He’s telling me how she’s worried about me. I haven’t responded or replied yet. My mother starts crying telling him that I have a problem. Without even looking up from my screen, I tell him that she’s lying.
Then my cousin points out that my mother is crying, while I’m still sitting and playing video games, and asks me if I feel no shame. That’s when I responded. I argued for some time. And eventually I couldn’t deny it any more.
I think that was when I hit bottom. Yep. All of 13 years old, I hit bottom. Addiction carries immense shame with it.
Every addict knows the feeling. When you try and you try, and you hate yourself, and you still try, but then you give in. As an addict, whatever you’re addicted to, carries the burden of shame with it. You hate yourself. You hate how weak you feel.
If You Have a Problem, Seek Help
The important thing is to realize that you have a problem. And seek help. Not to dull it with more video games and junk food. If the time you spend playing video games is starting to affect your daily life, seek help. I was lucky enough to get help.
For me, help came in the form of a cousin who was good enough to hold an intervention for me. Soon after, I discovered my love for music. I started playing the drums. I joined a band.
I eventually drifted away from video games. After a while, my Playstation also stopped working. And I didn’t want to get it fixed. So, while I missed playing games, the source of my temptation itself was gone.
Video games are amazing. I will NEVER deny that. They’re beautiful. Some video games are art, like The Last of Us or Shadow of the Colossus. Others are DESIGNED with repetitive reward patterns, like a drug, that require you to do more each time to get the same ‘high’ or unlock a new achievement.
I still love video games. I will never NOT love them. But I understand that while they’re fun, FOR ME they’re a waste of time. And time is an extremely precious resource.
This is one of the few ways I keep myself away from them. I also try not to play video games. The last time I played was last year. And I spent approximately 8 to 9 hours playing (I was playing Batman: Arkham City, in case you were wondering).
But today I can say no to video games. When I’m done I just lock away my Playstation 3. I haven’t played or used it in months. And I’m still alive.
But I’ll never forget how good it felt to play for long long hours.. or how easy it was to completely lose myself in video games over time.
(Vishnu Gopinath is a journalist with The Quint. This blog is based on his personal experiences with video game addiction as a teenager. )
(If your child is showing symptoms of addiction, or you worry they could possibly be vulnerable, please refer to this state-wise list of credible mental health professionals.)
(With inputs from PTI)
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