There’s no denying that online gaming is a growing trend that brings with it a risk of health concerns.
The recent pandemic saw many people across the United States turning to their gaming devices for comfort, whether that be a mobile phone, home console or PC. Restrictions on movement meant they had little alternative, and many discovered an exciting and engaging world that could have adverse effects on their health. According to Games Industry Biz, more than 214m people play video games in the US each week, which could be the tip of the iceberg.
What is Online Gaming?
Traditionally, online gaming refers to video games connected over the internet, where players can compete against friends at their leisure or against other players in competitions. It is a growing industry, with eSports estimated to be a market worth more than $1bn this year. That’s just the tip of the online gaming iceberg.
Another popular form of online gaming is casino and slot machine games on mobile devices. With physical casinos closed, many gamers were forced to turn to their tablets and phones to experience gaming, and they found a new world brimming with choice and variety. Instead of slot machines with melons, bells and cherries, they found branded games tailored to a host of different hobbies. One provider, Gala Bingo, features titles such as Heart of Rio and Divine Links, completely different themes around the same concept of slot machines. With such a diverse selection of providers and titles, it is easy to see why the craze for online gaming is on the rise.
Finally, the rules around online poker are also being relaxed in certain states, a trend that is set to continue. That, coupled with developing technology, means online gaming is here to stay.
What Are the Physical Risks?
Much depends on how often one indulges in online gaming, but a typical session can last from half an hour to several hours. Some video games demand long sessions of intense focus, whilst online casinos can be dipped in and out of in relatively short spells. There are plenty of physical risks, which it is worth considering when entering the world of online gaming.
A player can suffer from a repetitive strain injury for a start. Using a console controller or a mobile phone means your hands are often locked into position for long periods, posing a risk of RSI. Those playing for long periods in a sedentary position can also suffer from muscle strains, skin conditions and obesity, whilst back problems are common in gamers with poor posture. Heart disease is a serious long term risk through a lack of exercise too, and finally, eyesight can be impacted if players sit in darkened rooms staring at a bright screen. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does cover the main concerns.
How Can Gamers Combat These Risks?
There are several ways a gamer can prevent themselves from falling into poor health. The first is by regulating their play and mixing it up with physical exercise. Many of the problems associated with online gaming are connected to a lack of movement, so try to take a short break once every hour when playing. It is wise advice to not simply walk to the fridge for a soda and consider yourself exercised – try to get outside for 20 minutes and walk around the block. This will improve your circulation and ensure you give your body the sort of workout it needs. Don’t consider it enough to do it once in an eight-hour gaming session either – this should be something you do every hour or so, without fail.
Consider your diet, too. That trip to the fridge for a soda can be just as damaging as anything because gamers are prone to a poor diet. Chips, drinks and candy tend to form a gamer’s diet because they’re easy to nibble on whilst concentrated on something else. If you must game for long sessions, ensure the fuel you put into your body positively impacts you. Avoid foods high in sugar and salt, and instead, think about pulses, berries and seeds to keep you nourished whilst playing.
In between sessions, try to give your hands some exercise, too. We’re talking about the end of a level, or when you move from one slot machine to the next. Just for a minute, put your controller down or your mobile device, and stretch your arms, hands and fingers. Change position in your chair slightly and spend a short period looking away from the screen. It might seem like a small thing to do, but it could have a hugely positive impact on your overall health.
Online gaming is not a bad thing – it has many positive wellness benefits, including social interaction. Still, like any hobby or pastime, it must be done safely and with thought for your overall health.