A psychologist warned that parents should not take consoles from children who show signs of gaming addiction as it can lead to physical violence.
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, head of the National Center for Gaming Disorders, says it can become a matter for the police when children lose the ability to play games.
The center – which with the World Health Organization recognizes gaming addiction as a disorder – sees teens who play games for up to 14 hours a day.
Kids are addicted to Call of Duty, Fortnite, FIFA, Angry Birds, War Zone, and Minecraft, but no game is necessarily more addictive than any other.
According to the founder of the center, he has treated 745 patients since it opened in October 2019, including 327 patients last year.
Giving up gaming devices can lead young game addicts to aggressive actions, according to an expert at the NHS National Center for Gaming Disorders (file photo)
It can become a matter of policing when children lose access to toys, says Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones (pictured), head of the National Center for Gaming Disorders.
Most of the patients referred to the center so far have been teenagers, although adults also suffer from gaming addiction.
Professor Bowden-Jones now wants to display the NHS logo on toys so buyers know help is available for them and their families.
Professor Bowden-Jones said: ‘By the time they saw us, the parents had tried everything times.
Their immediate response is to take everything away – taking their game console, laptop, phone – which leads to aggression and violence, both from the child to the parents and from the child to the siblings.
“Once the violence occurs, the family becomes traumatized.”
The National Center for Gaming Disorders helps evaluate and treat people over the age of 13 who have difficulty controlling their video game use with therapy.
Provides support in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, educational workshops and more to affected addicts and family members.
Minecraft, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, Pokémon, and Fortnite are some of the major titles that have been causing addiction problems and driving referrals since the launch of the hub.
But mobile apps like Roblox, Angry Birds, and Clash of Clans have also generated referrals over the past four years.
Gamers addicted to Call of Duty (pictured), Fortnite, FIFA, Angry Birds, War Zone and Minecraft
Toys sold in the UK can display the NHS logo so buyers know help is available for them and their families
Professor Bowden-Jones said that as well as aggressive actions, the center had seen some children harm themselves when their console was taken away, saying “they would rather die than not play”.
What are loot boxes?
Loot boxes feature in many modern games, including the popular shooter Overwatch and the FIFA soccer simulator.
Chests are regularly given to players when they level up or accomplish certain tasks, and when opened, give the player a random in-game reward.
On top of the chests that are earned by playing the game, players can also purchase them with real money, causing some to argue that they are a form of gambling.
Others skip meals, avoid bathing so as not to miss game time, and say they would play 24/7 if they could.
“There is no time for anything else,” said Professor Bowden-Jones. “These are the kids who don’t brush their teeth, don’t bathe for months on end.”
Others don’t get a proper sleep and can’t concentrate at school because they’ve been playing all night.
Online gaming platforms such as Twitch and Steam that allow users to team up with people from all over the world in different time zones exacerbate this.
Another big issue is the addictive “Loot Boxes” – in-game “treasure chests” that give players random virtual prizes.
Depending on the game, loot boxes can contain a new gun, a fast car, or even a high-quality soccer player.
But they also may not contain anything the player wants or needs, even though they spent real money on it.
Critics have compared loot boxes to virtual slot machines and called for them to be regulated like a form of gambling.
Critics have compared the in-game loot boxes (pictured) to a virtual slot machine and called for it to be structured like a type of gambling.
Previous research has shown that one in six children steal money from a parent to pay for in-game loot boxes.
But in the UK, government ministers last summer rejected calls to ban stolen boxes after a 22-month consultation.
Instead, the government will focus on “industry-led” safeguards within the sector.
The vast majority of young people — about 98 percent — can still enjoy gaming without causing harm, but the rest need serious help.
Those who are particularly vulnerable to gaming addiction tend to have impulsive behavior and less emotional regulation.
One experience was shared by a mum named Lisa, whose son Ryan became addicted to gaming during the Covid lockdown.
Ryan has been playing games like Call of Duty and Minecraft on several different devices, including PlayStation, laptop, and smartphone.
“He was about 12 years old when I noticed that gaming became an issue and got worse during the lockdown,” Lisa told The Times.
“He would play 24/7 if he had what he wanted.”
Call of Duty, developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, simulates infantry and combined arms warfare in World War II
Ryan would become “very aggressive” and angry towards the person he was playing against online and then direct those feelings towards his family.
After group therapy, Ryan reduced the amount of time he spent playing and his mother saw an improvement in her mental health.
Lisa is now urging parents who follow to seek help from the center if anyone in their family notices symptoms of gaming addiction.
According to Professor Mark Griffiths, an expert in behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University, there were six criteria for gaming addiction – salience, mood modulation, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse.
What are the signs of gaming addiction?
Professor Mark Griffiths, a behavioral addiction expert at Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, said that like other problematic behaviours, there are six criteria for gaming addiction.
He said you should meet all six as an addict, but added that people who meet some may have trouble with the games.
The six criteria:
- Prominence: Playing video games is the most important thing in this person’s life to the neglect of everything else
- mood adjustment: A person uses video games to feel good and/or as an escape, or to numb or calm their feelings
- tolerance: They start spending increasing amounts of time or money on games, requiring more and more to achieve the desired effect
- withdrawal: A person who is unable to play games has signs of psychological and physiological distress
- conflict: They play video games to the point that it harms their relationships and education/career. The person also has an inner conflict where they know they need to stop/stop but they can’t
- relapse: If someone manages to stop for a period, or even years, but then starts playing again, they again begin to display addictive behaviors, like the other criteria