Gaming Disorder SHEilds Blog - Stephen Conlan

Understanding Gaming Disorder and Dedication

Introduction to Gaming

As a gamer I feel like my Gamerscore is high enough to qualify writing a short blog around this new recognised disorder. Although I would never consider myself a sufferer of gaming disorder (I’m not in denial) I have put my fair share of hours into gaming both online and offline. (I also ranked in the top 100 globally at one point in Day of Defeat: Source.)

From many people who don’t play video games, I have heard quite a few incorrect opinions around gaming. Growing up I was always told to converse with other kids in the neighbourhood and play outside however gaming isn’t an anti-social hobby. For those parents worried about their child suffering from gaming disorder, don’t jump to scheduling an appointment with a doctor to help them get over their gaming dedication.

Many games focus around team play and can build on team building foundations that can be priceless in many careers. Gaming also rewards a lot of players with an achievement of completing tasks, another benefit that can help in the working world with understanding the importance of meeting deadlines and managing tasks.

Being the best

Gaming is an incredibly competitive “sport” and dedication can pay off, many gamers have earned high sums of money from tournaments by being the best. DOTA 2 is an online MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) that holds some of the highest earners in the gaming world, the highest earner pocketing $1.9 million over his career solely in tournament winnings.

Other games such as Overwatch, League of Legends are giving gamers that chance to make a living from their hobbies. To note, there is a lot of sponsorship that happens in the eSports world which can exceed a players tournament earnings. The market for eSports is expected to exceed $1 billion by next year.

DOTA 2 which focuses on 5v5 team combat last year has the highest prize pool; The International,  which is the pinnacle of these tournaments, increases its prize pool significantly each year as shown below:

The International 2017: $24,787,916

The International 2016: $20,770,460

The International 2015: $18,429,613

The International 2014: $10,931,105

Understandably this is why many young people decide to follow a gaming career. There are also streaming services such as Twitch which can see streamers earn money for simply broadcasting themselves playing a game. Many people use this as a way to learn from professionals.

To be a top player requires a lot of work and studying different strategies, but with the large sums of prize money available it isn’t hard to see why many people are starting to game more for longer periods.

How do I tell if myself or someone else is affected?

Gaming disorder is characterized by an impaired control over gaming. An example of this is people who perhaps avoid living their life outside of a virtual world to play games such as avoiding work to play games, not eating correctly or maintaining their personal hygiene.

Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with someone’s dedication to gaming being noted as a mental health disorder, I think there are some more extreme circumstances that this recent acknowledgement could be of benefit to.

Many teens have died IRL (In Real Life) after playing games for lengthy periods of time (40+ hours) after forgetting to eat, drink or sleep. This is where I think the benefit of the WHO (World Health Organisation) listing can come in to effect.

Support for individuals that are struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst playing games is essential. However, I think there are hundreds of thousands of people that would be told to seek help because elders may not understand the level of commitment involved.

Possible signs of having a gaming disorder

It’s important to ensure children, teens and adults all commit to their life outside of the gaming world. Calling in sick to your job or school to play video games are possible signs of having a gaming disorder.

Making sure you take care of yourself

Unfortunately, there is no respawn to our real life, so making sure you take care of yourself ensures you will be able to game all the way to OAG (Old Age Gamer.)

Eat correctly – Many people will resort to snacking whilst gaming, while this isn’t the worst idea once in a while, when the only things that you are consuming are in the same savoury realm as crisps and pizza, you won’t stay in the best physical health. Ensuring you consume a balanced diet will not only keep your body in a good physical shape, it will keep your mind in a great state that will improve reaction times, concentration and accuracy.

Drink plenty of water – For more than one reason drinking water regularly is a great idea. Put down the energy drink, you don’t need it! Drinking water keeps you hydrated, which keeps your brain active and ensures you take regular toilet breaks which can be doubled as a stretch of the legs and a way to rest your eyes. Just don’t look at investing in a gamer nappy (such as Underscares. Unfortunately this is a thing.)

Sleep well – Sleeping regularly is incredibly beneficial for your body and brain. Many gamers have been known to nap regularly however never get through a full cycle of REM. Napping whilst waiting for team-mates is not really sleeping. Regardless of the negative effects this has upon your body, this will decrease your reaction times and concentration meaning that you may miss an enemy hiding in the distance. You may be playing less, but you will play better.

Personal Hygiene – Showering regularly, washing hands after using the toilet are simple practices that we should all maintain, gaming can cause a player to sweat more and over time can lead to bad smells and sores if your hygiene gets out of control. It’s also not the most welcoming smell especially if you are gaming in an internet café!

Regular breaks – Taking regular breaks is important to stretch muscles, especially if your desk isn’t set up correctly (See our DSE Course for a little more information on this.) Looking down at a monitor or making constant repetitive mouse movements can cause lasting issues. This, unfortunately would lessen the years you could spend professionally gaming or even hold you back from getting there.

Why is gaming addictive

There are many reasons that gaming is addictive. I usually fund my next game by playing games which seems like an odd concept. Quite regularly I receive items that are worth money and there are hundreds, if not thousands of games that give virtual items with a monetary value.

Virtual items may cost money with a record being $635,000. Some actually prove to be good investments that return money from a virtual world to the real world as a constant source of income (look up Club Neverdie if you’re interested.)

Other reasons may be that there is a burst of adrenaline in some games that becomes a major addiction for many gamers as they seek to get the same rush of adrenaline again and again.

Games are also challenging which is the main point that draws me in. I personally enjoy challenging tasks and situations. I constantly attempt to beat scores, times and find the best logical solutions, I am a massive fan of old arcade games for this reason.

It has also been proven that gaming increases your cognitive skills [1].

Strategising and working out logical solutions in virtual worlds can prove effective in the real world. Some of the benefits when looking at trusted sources are improvements in:

  • Visual processes
  • Attention and concentration
  • Job Related
  • Co-ordination
  • Problem solving Skills
  • Memory
  • Brain speed
  • Multi-tasking
  • Social Skills


There has been a bit of controversy around Gaming Disorder being accepted by the World Health Organization. I think this has only been a matter of time in a developing world and that if anything it has taken too long for this to be accepted. I think there is quite a large line between dedication and addiction, that I hope this blog will blur less.

Games aren’t all that bad

Despite the stereotypes of gamers being lazy and anti-social, science says otherwise. Whilst many people bad mouth games, I think the key aspect is how often we play them. Regardless of whether you class yourself as a gamer or not, you have probably played games to some level or experienced gamification in studying, learning a new language or a crossword in the newspaper.

Hopefully there is some understanding to those reading that not every committed gamer is suffering from gaming disorder. Just let’s keep a look out for anyone who may be suffering from the disorder and promote a healthy lifestyle.

If you need help, you can see your doctor or if you’re too busy to see the doctor, speak to an online addiction service such as UKAT whilst you play a few games.
Stephen Conlan