Video games and video game culture continues to influence the wider world. More than a pastime for bored teenagers and lost adults, video games are now recognised as both a professional sport and a powerful form of addiction. This dichotomy highlights the complex relationship that exists between gamers and their favourite hobby, with video games best understood as a warped mirror that reflects society rather than a positive or negative force in their own right.
Esports, or electronic sports, is the term used to describe video game competition. While you might not think gaming is a real sport, organised competitions between video gamers are increasingly widespread and incredibly popular. Esports come in a variety of different flavours, including multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) contests, first-person shooter (FPS) contests, fighting games and more. An entire industry has developed around esports, with a global audience of 454 million viewers and US$1 billion in revenue forecast for 2019.
Video games were recently introduced into the United States high school curriculum by the National Federation of State High School Associations. There are already competitions between schools in different states, with high-school-sanctioned games played at individual schools or a special gaming facility. Schools are getting involved for two very good reasons, with video game development already a solid career option, and increased opportunities also existing for players to become professional.
Universities such as New York University and the University of California already offer scholarships for video games, with people able to turn a hobby into a passion and then a profession. Even for people who can't or don't want to turn professional, there's an increased acceptance in the education community that video games can be beneficial when used intelligently. From hand-eye coordination through to problem solving skills and group communication, gaming can and does offer benefits to the developing brain.
Like most things in life, however, increased opportunities also come with challenges. The over use of video games has been linked to numerous cognitive, emotional, and social problems, with some gamers turning on their consoles and turning off from society completely. While the addictive nature of video games has been recognised for years by some psychologists and rehabilitation professionals, the World Health Organisation officially classified video game addiction as a disorder earlier this year.
Gaming disorder is defined by the WHO as a "pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming", along with the "increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities." While only a relatively small number of people are likely to develop this disorder, WHO attention will increase acceptance of this addiction in the wider community. As the video game and esports industries react to rising demand across the world, healthcare professionals need to be aware of the potential human costs associated with video game culture.
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