'I wasn’t showering, I wasn’t eating properly' - The video game addict who played for 12 hours a day

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'I wasn’t showering, I wasn’t eating properly' - The video game addict who played for 12 hours a day

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/health/i ... g-19400167

'I wasn’t showering, I wasn’t eating properly' - The video game addict who played for 12 hours a day

A London NHS clinic for people with gaming disorders is seeing more patients than ever due to lockdown

By James Bayley
13:02, 6 DEC 2020 Updated 14:40, 6 DEC 2020

A former video games addict who would "fall asleep on his keyboard" during daily 12 hour sessions is now helping young people who are struggling, as stats show an NHS clinic for gaming disorders is seeing more patients than ever before.

It comes after the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) endorsed an initiative entitled #PlayApartTogether, to encourage people to stay indoors and play video games during lockdown.

Since then, the number of teenagers playing video games around the country has soared.

The NHS clinic for gaming disorders, based in Earls Court, has seen more than 80 young patients for sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, with 20 parents attending support groups.

The clinic has seen a surge in enquiries since the pandemic as families try to manage their child’s gaming habits.

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Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Rebecca Lockwood said: “A majority of our young people would wake up and start gaming through the day.

“We started a support group for parents during the beginning of the pandemic, to help them understand the emotional and neurological effects of this.”

Back in May 2019, the W.H.O. added ‘gaming disorder’ to the International Classification of Diseases.

Lee Chambers, a former game-addict turned life-coach, knows exactly what the families seeking help are going through.

He said: “Gambling addiction takes your finances away, and drug addiction takes your health and social life away.

"But gaming addiction steals your time and your personal development, and it can set in at such a young age, and you can’t get your youth back.”

At the peak of his gaming addiction, Lee would spend 12 hours a day in his dorm at university, playing World of Warcraft, he eventually failed his year at university and lost his job.

“I wasn’t showering, I wasn’t eating properly, I was falling asleep on my keyboard,” he said.

It was only after Lee met up with fellow gamers at a World of Warcraft convention that the impact of excessive gaming dawned on him.

He added: “To my surprise, I met these adults, but they were living like desolate students.

"You could see that the game had taken over their lives, but the difference was they were 30 years old, they hadn’t really moved anywhere.

"I saw that and thought 'this is me in 10 years if I don’t sort my life out'."

It was Lee’s struggles with video game addiction that led him to life coaching. He now speaks to and advises people about gaming.

He said: "Gaming has gone from simply playing a single-player mode with no online contact, to hours and hours on end of self-imposed isolation.”

With the birth of online gaming and the introduction of player headsets, gamers have the tools to interact and communicate online.

The social elements that once protected gamers, like crowding around a Gameboy in the school playground have disappeared, and lockdown has exasperated this.

Dr Phil Parker, a lecturer at the School of Psychology, London Metropolitan University thinks there’s a similarity between the behaviour of a gaming addict and that of a gambling addict.

Dr Parker said: “The thing that tends to be showing up in most studies around addiction is impulsivity, which is the inability to consider the consequences when making decisions.”

He added, “It’s about immersing yourself in a world, which is often a world where you have the things that you don't feel you have in the real world.”

A London-based video game programmer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I don't think the gaming industry should be shielded from people asking questions about gaming disorder.

"But it often gets assumed that anyone who plays any video games could be subject to this disorder and it's just not true.

“Would you say someone who trains eight hours a day on the tennis court has tennis disorder?

"We socially accept someone who's driven to athleticism and being the best in a sport, but we reject people who excel in virtual sports.

"Considering the potential after-effects of Covid-19, I think you might see perceptions change.”

However, it's a programmers job to create virtual barriers around the players, so they're guided through a fun experience as opposed to a bad one.

The programmer said, “We certainly do talk about keeping someone in a positive feedback loop, so they are rewarded after completing a certain challenge, but that’s just the nature of games in general.”

We now live in a world where teenagers can make a lot of money from playing games like Fortnite and FIFA, and it is becoming harder for parents to discipline their children when excessive gaming is becoming more and more viable as a career path.

Only time will tell if lockdown has caused more people to suffer from gaming disorder, as clinic admissions continue to rise.

The more isolated we have been as a society, the greater our desire for escapism has become, whether that be through gaming, gambling or drinking.

The infamous gambling slogan goes, “When the fun stops, stop”, but the reality is, these industries wouldn’t be as profitable if they were always fun, and it is they who stand to profit the most from Coronavirus, not their consumers.

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