In June, WHO (World Health Organisation) classified 'gaming disorder' as a mental health condition. Not everyone agrees with this decision, including several psychologists who feel it's a stretch to include it in the ICD (International Classification of Diseases). WHO justified their decision, reasoning that excessive gaming – "behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities" affected between 0.3 and 1 percent of the population. While gaming addiction is certainly a concern for some young people, it's wrong to engage with the massive cultural phenomenon of gaming through just one lens.
PLAY, COMMUNICATION & NOSTALGIA
In terms of cultural significance, and industry value, video games are toppling television and film, especially from the youth perspective.
"I get restless watching TV, but I can play a game for hours – especially RPGs, which bring in widescale exploration and huge scope for customisation." - Grace, 26, The Love Network
Despite the acres of newsprint warning that video games are harming young people, there is considerable research that refutes these claims. The active rather than passive nature of video games has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on young people. A 2017 study by the University of Glasgow found that video games 'actually improved student communication skills, resourcefulness and adaptability and may have a role to play in higher education.' Modern game design encourages players to think critically, practice reflective learning, and solve problems. In addition, more and more young people are using video games for practical and emotional reasons. Love Network member Grace uses gaming as a means of self-care:
"I feel like I'm actually doing something other than just sitting there passively. I play for nostalgic reasons too – I've always played video games, and sometimes it's just nice to escape the world for an hour and explore somewhere totally different." - Grace, 26, The Love Network
Smartphone gaming – expected to represent 34% of the gaming market by 2019 – has contributed to the rapid growth in gaming's popularity. Being able to play anywhere and play with others online has helped create this cultural giant. The insane success of multiplayer, sand-box survival game Fortnite, is testament to this, as well as the youth-appeal of social gaming.
Games are being used to foster a sense of community – connecting players from around the world.
"It's a social thing for me. I play Overwatch with my brother and two friends, who I don't see that often in real life – so it's a really good way for us to keep in touch. It's a form of escapism too – an hour to switch off and throw fireballs. It's pure fantasy, and it relaxes me." - Luke, 26, The Love Network
In addition to social gaming, playing video games as an act of mindfulness is becoming increasingly important for young people as they relax, unwind, and practice a form of meditation through video games. Games such as Flow, Journey and ABZÛ combine meditative music, open-world exploration, unpressured gameplay and gentle aesthetics, designed to create a feeling of calm in the player.
Just under 70,000 people descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center last week for E3, the world's largest gaming convention. For Grace and Luke they’re most excited about playing Shadows Die Twice, Spiderman, Cyberpunk 2077 , the new Pokémon game and Ooblets.
"Ooblets is a new game headed by a female developer who Microsoft backed in order to release her game on their platforms – PC and Xbox. Its design looks really cute." - Grace, 26, The Love Network
Gaming captures youth attention like few other forms of entertainment. The anticipation of new games and the constantly evolving gameplay and graphics inspire super fandom and deeper feelings of connection. Despite real health concerns, video games have many proven benefits for young people, helping them to develop skills and aptitudes that will be useful in their professional lives. While we don't have collective names as such for people who watch Netflix or films, gamers are a clearly defined and impassioned group.