The coronavirus pandemic has many households across the United States and in Europe locked down. As residents look for ways to keep themselves occupied, video game use has skyrocketed. This popular pastime has become a way for millions of people who are spending time at home to try to stave off boredom as well as stay connected to others.
Health officials are in favor of people sheltering in place to attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. For the majority of users, playing video games is an enjoyable hobby. This is not the case for a certain percentage of the population, though. For them, spending extra time online opens the door to internet and video game addiction.
Video Game Addiction Increase Linked to Stress, Pressures of Being at Home
Video game addicts have the same kinds of pressure as people who live with a gambling addiction. They have everyday life stress, along with isolation, and unemployment or underemployment. At the same time, they are being told to spend time taking part in the behavior that is a problem for them.
Keith Whyte, the executive director at the National Council on Problem Gambling, said that all the risk factors for gambling addiction are increasing at present. He also points out that the same applies to internet and gambling addiction. Mr. Whyte commented that the possibility of a large increase in the number of gaming addicts is real.
The council’s 27 centers provide telephone counseling services. Some of the hotlines are already reporting higher-than-normal call volumes. Support groups are reporting that members are relapsing worldwide. Daria Kuss, an associate professor of psychology at Nottingham Trent University, estimates that the number of gamers with addiction issues ranges between 0.8-25%.
COVID-19 Creates Public Health Issue
These figures have created an issue for public health officials, who want to keep people safe during the current COVID-19 crisis. They need to get people to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus but the forced isolation makes a certain percentage of the population more susceptible to developing a video game addiction.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and tech companies are suggesting that video games are a positive way to spend time while stuck at home. Several companies have released free versions and discounts to their paid games to encourage the public to engage in this activity using the “Do your part, play at home” message. They are also offering rewards encouraging gamers to wash their hands often to help prevent the virus from spreading.