Nerd Immunity: How To Keep Gaming-Related Maladies At Bay
For years, the idea of becoming unwell or suffering an injury as a result of playing video games would have been laughed at by just about everyone. When it happens, many of us will ruefully reflect on whether we’d have been safer in a literal warzone than we would have been in a virtual one, but there is no denying it: gaming can be hazardous. While gaming undoubtedly has plenty of positives in its favor, the truth is that if you play too much, at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, you can certainly end up harming your health.
What are the main dangers that you need to look out for? For sure, the threats are different for an esports champion than they are for a professional football player. There is less risk of a torn ACL or a concussion, but there are risks nonetheless, and knowing what they are – and how to avoid them – is a balance that any self-respecting nerd should be keen to strike.
Postural difficulties and too long spent holding a controller can cause pain which usually starts in the shoulder, but can become chronic and travel along the arm and back. Creatively nicknamed “Nintendinitis”, the pain can be debilitating, and can affect your grip strength as well as bleeding into every area of your life. The first defense against it is to take regular breaks while playing and look for bean bag chairs for gaming so your body is supported where it needs to be. If you’re feeling stiff, stand up and stretch out – and make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh fruit for nutrients – magnesium and potassium are your friends.
There is no shortage of controversy over whether continued excessive gaming counts as an addiction from a medical point of view. Certainly, many of the impacts are the same as a dependency on substances such as drugs and alcohol. If you find yourself thinking about gaming when you’re away from the PC or console; if you make excuses to miss social occasions or work to play; or if you play long into the night and aren’t getting enough sleep, then you may well be addicted to gaming. And the World Health Organization agrees. A major warning sign comes when your world beyond gaming seems to shrink and you can only find joy and value in the game.
Mental health issues
Playing video games for too long, or at the wrong times, can have pronounced effects on your mental health. Some doctors suggest that it can aggravate the symptoms of ADHD, and the lack of sleep allied to the challenging nature of video games can also cause depression. Taking time away from the controller is essential if you are finding that these conditions are beginning to blight your life. Video games have a strong connection to reward and motivation in the human brain: if you’re doing well, they’ll give you a hit of dopamine. When the source of that dopamine is taken away, you become gloomy and anxious. The key is to play little and often, so you don’t become dependent on that hit.