Online gaming boom in India brings rising dangers for users

Experts warn of addiction, anxiety and cyber crimes

Society

July 2, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Online gaming boom in India brings rising dangers for users

76 pc of people feel that addiction to action games lead to changed behaviour and can increase depression, says report (MIG Photos)

While the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have given a boost to the online gaming industry, various experts and studies point at its adverse effects on the mind and body of individuals.

Driven by affordable data, accessibility to smart phones and increasing disposable time due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, online gaming industry in India has witnessed a major boom in the time when the pandemic has had a catastrophic on majority if sectors.

According to a report released by KPMG consulting firm, India, the overall online casual gaming sub-segment in India which stood at a size of INR 60 billion in 2021 is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29 pc over 2021-2025 to reach a size of INR 169 billion. The report also states that time spent on gaming apps, increased by 21 pc during the initial national lockdown, with the total customer base crossing 300 million users.

While the boom may be good for the gaming industry, users end up paying a heavy price as heavy-duty gaming can lead to several mental and physical problems and can also lead to addiction.

Habit of gaming has thrived during pandemic situation and dependence of youth on gaming for the purpose of recreation has increased. Lifestyle, routine, priorities have changed. For younger population it has been tough to resist the temptation of socialising through online game,” Ritansha Grover, a Delhi-based psychologist tells Media India Group.

Pass-time or addiction

While these games have become a staple for pass time and entertainment during the pandemic, potential for overuse has also been introduced especially in the younger population.

“The screen time has increased considerably during the pandemic induced lockdowns. Since we cannot go anywhere, so gaming seems like one of the few things to do. I play about 2 hours a day now. Earlier it was around 4-5 hours but now I have school classes to attend as well,” Tanish Khurana, class 10 student from Chandigarh tells Media India Group.

As many as 87 pc of gamers think that online gaming affects their physical and mental well-being, while 76 pc think that action game addiction has changed their behaviour raising levels of depression and anxiety says the India Digital Wellness Report by NortonLifeLock, a consumer cyber security brand.

“Online gaming can become addiction if it is not monitored. One who gets carried away by self gratifying urges of playing, might put oneself at risk of addiction,” says Grover.

Physical and mental impact

While online games are said to have some cognitive benefits to gaming, such as better control of one’s attention and improved spatial reasoning, more often than not they end up affecting the physical and mental well being of an individual.

About 76 pc of people feel that addiction to action games lead to changed behaviour and can increase depression and anxiety levels, says the India Digital Wellness Report.

“Online gaming often leads to people developing a passive lifestyle. Which in turn leads to self neglect, isolation, lack of interaction, emotional and social disconnect. When these areas are not attended, it creates imbalance and hampers mental health. Thought process and emotional regulation gets disturbed. Thus it leads to difficulty in adjustment and coping,” says Grover.

Not only is gaming likely to be dangerous for mental health of an individual, it can also lead to physical ailments such as poor eyesight and repetitive stress injuries, or overuse injuries. These injuries come from activities that involve repeated use of muscles and tendons, to the point that pain and inflammation develop. If these injuries are allowed to progress, numbness and weakness can develop, and permanent injury can result. Overuse injuries of the hands and arms are rampant among gamers.

“Spending this much time on screen doing any sort of work or leisure activity is bound to have some effects. I have weak eyesight in my right eye and frequent headaches,” says Khurana.

Lack of privacy and data breaches

Excess of online gaming is not just harmful for the well being of an individual but also brings with it a slew of challenges and risks that include exposure of children to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, addiction, gambling and toxic peers.

According to the India Digital Wellness Report, 70 pc of respondents feel that children connecting with strangers while playing games online can lead to cyber bullying, harassment, and violence.

“People could be drawn to online gaming for entertainment, but data shows that it is not all about fun and games. The virtual playing field comes with risks such as identity theft, cyber bullying, phishing, and credit card theft, to name a few,” Ritesh Chopra, Director, NortonLifeLock, said in a statement.

The gaming industry suffered 12 billion cyberattacks between November 2017 and March 2019, says a report by Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery network, cybersecurity, and cloud service company, providing web and Internet security services.

As with any other activity, online gaming also has potential benefits and harms which makes moderation and finding a balance essential.

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