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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 83-85

Binge gaming and COVID-19: A looming crisis

1 Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Clinical Psychology, Service for Healthy Use of Technology Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
3 National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission08-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance11-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
Manoj Kumar Sharma
Department of Clinical Psychology, Service for Healthy Use of Technology Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_26_21

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How to cite this article:
Mahapatra S, Sharma MK, Amudhan S, Anand N. Binge gaming and COVID-19: A looming crisis. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2021;26:83-5

How to cite this URL:
Mahapatra S, Sharma MK, Amudhan S, Anand N. Binge gaming and COVID-19: A looming crisis. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 1];26:83-5. Available from: https://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2021/26/1/83/322823


Video games in recent times are being redefined and adapted to provide high-quality gaming experience by reasonably emulating the outer real-life. This has made the gamers more vulnerable to spend their larger part of the virtual space in gaming.[1] Further, the rise of anywhere-anytime gaming along with easy access to mobile phones, escape from reality and coping to relieve psychological distress could be other reasons that contribute to extreme engagement and binge-gaming. According to a report called “The State of Online Gaming 2019” by Limelight Networks, people spend around an average of 7 h 7 min each week in playing games with an increase of 19.3% from 2018. The report was based on online survey of 4500 consumers who were 18 years and above from countries: France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Respondents were asked to give responses on a variety of topics such as type of game thay, device used for playing game, how they access content, and their experience while playing. Gaming has become a popular career option for many young gamers known as eSports. Globally, South Korea holds the first position with most number of gamers with 9.85%, India stands out at second with 7%, but Japan spends the most average longest duration consequtively with 5.14 h. Although variety of devices are available but mobile phones have been consistently the most popular device to play games. Downloading games is the most popular method for playing games in every country where the percentage of people who download games have been increased to 7% in the last year from 59.6% of gamers to 63.6%. Such type of gamers do not take break to do their daily activities. The most gamers who miss sleep while playing games belong to South Korea with 66.8%, 43.6% of German gamers miss a meal, while in India, 24.2% of gamers have missed their work while playing games.[2]

As fear and uncertainty took an exponential step during lockdown due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, a wide range of emotional breakdown was experienced at the individual level. The mental health problems ranging from stress, insomnia, anger, and emotional exhaustion to depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder had co-occurred along with COVID-19. Gaming in the digital platform has become a ubiquitous leisure activity among adolescents and young adults during COVID-19. Increased outdoor restrictions, occupational/educational disruption, and more free time during had led to a rise in gaming during COVID-19 lockdown. Gaming is often regarded as an alternative to bridge the gap that is created by social distancing and to escape from “Headline Stress Disorder” (high emotional responses such as stress and anxiety to endless reports from the news media which can later result in mental disorders) that conceptualized during COVID-19.[3] The Pandemic has created a cataclysm into the normal life activities, according to a US-based report, there has been an increase of 75% online gaming activity which is coinciding with the initial phase of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic indicating a strong influence of video games in daily activities during home stay.[4] Video game sales showed an increase of 35% year over year increase in March 2020. Gaming industry increased their output of games despite pandemic constraint (https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/05/12/video-game-industry-coronavirus/).[5] The use of video games has become one of the important activity within the 20 most important activities that people like to carry out during quarantine period.[6] The increase in sale and download of video games during the quarantine mediated by the confinement of children and young people who have changed their daily activities and certain habits due to the closure of educational Institutions, in addition to outdoor and shared activities. With the rise in gaming, a high possibility of an increase in binge gaming and subsequent gaming addiction cannot be ruled out. During the lockdown period, an average of 2–3 cases presented with complaints gaming, emotional dyscontrol secondary to any restriction related to gaming and losing interest in important offline activities per week in the age group of 16–18 years were seen at SHUT Clinic (Service for Healthy Use of Technology), India first Technology Deaddiction Clinic at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka. This trend was not present before pandemic time. Most of the cases were playing 10–12 h a day without taking a break, and this binge gaming was associated with adverse consequences in their biological, social, family, and occupational domain. Behavioral treatment in the form of assessment, behavioral activation, cognitive restructuring, time management, anager management, relaxation exercise, and family session were offered in individual session. This pattern of binge gaming was not seen in the past among treatment seekers at SHUT Clinic. Treatment seeker's reported increased awareness about signs of excessive game use, use of distraction and relaxation to cut down the frequeny of expression of anger, need to indulgence in other offline activities to reduce number of gaming hours and increased communication in the family context.[7]

Besides entertainment, the adolescents and young adults were pushed into binge-gaming because they perceive gaming as a method of gaining social acceptance that fulfills their psychological, achievement, and self-esteem needs. Extreme engagement in online gaming was found to be strongly associated with poor academic performance among school-going adolescents. Research indicates that playing games for the long hours could result in problematic gaming which tends to negatively impact the individual.[8] These excessive behavioral patterns of gaming have also been described in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Section III as the Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD), thus proposing that the individual can be diagnosed with the IGD when there is the persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. They are many psychosocial factors that are found to be associated with gaming disorder. Since binge gaming also involves playing video games for a long hour, similar psychosocial factors might also influence the binge gaming pattern.

The psychosocial factors such as family dynamics, attachment patterns, and interaction within the family had significantly influenced the indulgence in excessive gaming. It includes disturbed family relationships and poor parent-child relationships.[9] In another survey on players of MMORPGs aged 18–32 years, half (47%) of the problem gamers reported disorganized attachment features, playing to escape from painful memories of abuse and domestic abuse.[10] The excessive gaming also happens in players with a low level of self-esteem, low level of self-efficacy, and clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, and ADHD.[11] The long session of gaming may be perpetuating through a low level of mental flexibility, psychological frustration, and sensation-seeking behavior.[12],[13],[14] These coping behaviors will also further mediate binge use to reduce the distress as well as enhance one's feeling of well-being.

Youth found to be anxious and worried about the geopolitical situation of COVID-19. They were more inclined to use traditional means rather technology as a modality to manage issues related to COVID-19 which is making them ignorant as well anxious even though they belong to the most adaptive human age group.[15] On opening of Educational Inistitutions/Workplace's, children and adolescents would find it difficult to cope with educational responsibilities and young adults with their work responsibilities leading to decrreased productivity. Though COVID-19 can be brought under control with co-ordinated efforts, the majority who had excessive and binge gaming during the COVID-19 period may suffer from persistence and negative consequences. Although there is an abundance of evidence on IGD, evidence on binge gaming and its consequences are relatively absent. This emphasize the need for further exploration of binge gaming or binge gaming for Esport as a career and its associated psychosocial factors to better understand the cognitive psychology of IGD. Supportive guidelines on preventive care and early intervention for binge gaming will be useful for clinical practice in the field of psychology and psychiatry to overcome adverse mental health impact caused by gaming during COVID-19 pandemic.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ruzic-Baf M, Strnak H, Debeljuh A. Online video games and young people. Int J Res Educ Sci 2015;2:94.  Back to cited text no. 1
Limelight Networks. Market Research: The State of Online Gaming – 2019. Available from: https://www.limelight.com/resources/white-paper/state-of-online-gaming-2019/.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dong M, Zheng J. Letter to the editor: Headline stress disorder caused by Netnews during the outbreak of COVID-19. Health Expect 2020;23:259-60.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pantling, A. Gaming Usage up 75 Percent Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Verizon Reports; 2020. Available from: https://www. hollywoodreporter.com/news/gaming-usage-up-75-percentcoronavirus-outbreak-verizon-reports-1285140.  Back to cited text no. 4
Luz O, Héctor T, Christian C, Veronica T. Impact on the video game Industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Athenea 2020;1:15-3.  Back to cited text no. 5
Antevenio. Downloadable Study: Zoom Video Games and the Gamer World, How has the Coronavirus Impacted this Market? Spain: Antevenio; 2020. Available from: https://www.antevenio.com/blog/2020/04/estudio-descargable-zoom-videojuegos-y-mundo-gamer-como-ha-impactado-el-coronavirus-en-este-mercado/. [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 6
Travasso C. India opens clinic to help people “addicted” to mobile phones and video games. BMJ 2014;349:g4439.  Back to cited text no. 7
Cudo A, Kopiś N, Stróżak P, Zapała D. Problematic video gaming and problematic internet use among polish young adults. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2018;21:523-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
Schneider LA, King DL, Delfabbro PH. Family factors in adolescent problematic Internet gaming: A systematic review. J Behav Addict 2017;6:321-33.  Back to cited text no. 9
Schimmenti A, Guglielmucci F, Barbasio C, Granieri A. Attachment disorganization and dissociation in virtual worlds: A study on problematic Internet use among players of online role-playing games. Clin Neuropsychiat 2012;9:195-202.  Back to cited text no. 10
Wang HR, Cho H, Kim DJ. Prevalence and correlates of comorbid depression in a nonclinical online sample with DSM-5 internet gaming disorder. J Affect Disord 2018;226:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 11
Zhou Z, Yuan G, Yao J. Cognitive biases toward Internet game-related pictures and executive deficits in individuals with an Internet game addiction. PLoS One 2012;7:e48961.  Back to cited text no. 12
Hu J, Zhen S, Yu C, Zhang Q, Zhang W. Sensation seeking and online gaming addiction in adolescents: A moderated mediation model of positive affective associations and impulsivity. Front Psychol 2017;8:699.  Back to cited text no. 13
Przybylski AK, Weinstein N. Investigating the motivational and psychosocial dynamics of dysregulated gaming: Evidence from a preregistered cohort study. Clin Psychol Sci 2019;7:1257-65.  Back to cited text no. 14
Basu A, Roy A, Hazra AK, Pramanick K. Analysis of Youths' Perspective in India On and During the Pandemic of COVID-19. Soc Sci Q 2020. [doi: 10.1111/ssqu. 12839].  Back to cited text no. 15

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