The Darker Side to Gaming


Ever felt a reigning sense of doom where everything around you feels like it’s slowly peeling away from reality, and any form of motivation suddenly becomes obsolete? Imagine having that feeling on a daily basis. No, no, not the same dreadful feeling as heartbreak, but picture a daily dose of being heartbroken without ever knowing the reason why, then one day that same “you” suddenly dies away. There is indeed a dividing distinction between feeling depressed and having depression. This article will dispel the common misconception that gaming only reflects positive outcomes to a gamer’s mentality. In this article I will primarily focus on the relationship between gaming and depression; how gamer’s are more susceptible to depression, and some tips on how you can reduce your chances of catching the ol’ case of the blues. Furthermore, I will touch upon my perspective on the unspoken relationship between clinical depression and video gaming. depression-coverlarge

Although, there has been little research done on gaming yet, there can still be a logical approach drawn between gaming and depression. Surprisingly, through my 15 years of experience in gaming, I’ve met many individuals who were clinically diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression. But…why gaming? Gaming isn’t the same as it was back in my time, and that was about 15 years ago. Yes, I am getting old, but not ancient. Look at where gaming stands in our society today. Almost everyone of different age groups, ethnicity, and genders play video games, and in some countries it’s even labeled a sport. According to ESRB(Entertainment Software Rating Board) in 2009 the video game industry itself generated $10.5 billion in revenue(ESRB, 2011). That revenue is almost a quarter of what the foreign exchange market grew to in the mid 1980’s. In other words, that is a huge amount of money produced in a short time. If you look beyond the short term enjoyment there is great depth. I have always lived by the saying, “It’s too good to be true”‒I mean unless you win the lottery. Think about it for a moment. How has human interaction changed? How has gaming affected our interpersonal communication skills?

Depression is an illness that usually spawns from trauma, followed by loneliness, making the individual feel dependent. A lot of people may think that gaming has brought us closer, but I feel that it has disconnected humans even more. Phil Owen on even specified, “I was expecting to find that the depression led to gaming. But we found the opposite in that study.”(Owen, 2012). This essentially points out that there is a relationship between the two, and that gaming could be the cause of depression for some people.

downloadIn addition, depression is THE most common and complex mental illness in the world. Pills? Consulting? Relapse? People have to understand that depression is a serious issue in our generation and must be addressed. The rise of the gaming industry and gaming enthusiasts have made video games become a catalyst for the growth of depression in individuals. The obsession over e-sports and the pro-gaming scene in the population has consolidated video gaming as a career goal for many rather than being a fun hobby. Gaming has advanced farther than what many have expected over the years. What’s next to come?

League of Legends is currently the number one online video game in the world when generating active population players. I was also an avid competitive League player, but now I’d rather play it for fun when I have time. Although I’ve had great memories and my share of fun with League, I noticed later on that it really took a toll on my own social life and self growth as an individual. Most often people don’t notice this because they are too absorbed in what I call, “Gamerdrome”. In addition, I decided to interview a League player who actually suffers from clinical depression. I asked her if League was an escape for her, rather than a fix to her depression. Sammy**** replied, “Yeah I guess it was sort of a temporary fix”. For many like Sammy****, gaming is an escape and a temporary solution like taking Tylenol to relieve a headache. It masks the pain well, but its existence remains. Gaming to hide depression is sought as an easy getaway for most individuals. Sammy**** also shared that she was bullied in school, which contributed to her depression, and that playing League made her feel “happier”. But, with the rise of cyber bullying, it’s hard to escape such a volatile environment even online.

People may think that bullying differentiates across platforms, but with the rise of the internet, bullying has essentially translated real life peers to what we call, “Netizens”. Netizens are online peers which range from your typical Youtube commenter to perhaps an anon user on a forum-based site like Reddit. To break it down, they are a citizen of the net like you and I.  I guess you can also assume that every League of Legends user that you meet is also a Netizen. Now in countries like South Korea, where Netizens have immense control of the media and public image they tend to abuse their power by cyber bullying. In this case, words can truly break a person’s bones. With the constant criticism and bullying tactics of web citizens many individuals, usually celebrities, suffer from high suicide rates. In addition, these individuals tend to be diagnosed with a severe degree of depression.

Now in today’s gaming society, the concept of cyber bullying has really expanded into communities like League of Legends. For those who claimed to play League of Legends as an escape from their daily issues usually have it the worst when it comes to dealing with the toxic community. And trust me League of Legends probably has one of the most verbally abusive communities I’ve seen in a while. It’s understandable… if you think about it. I mean if individuals come to play League to relieve stress they will most likely be unleashing hell and blame on team mates. I’ve heard things like, “I hope you get cancer” and “I hope you die” way too many times in-game. It’s really sad the fact that some people will go as far as wishing death upon someone else. I know these are just words in the end, but imagine hammering that into someone who already questions their own self worth. Cyber bullying becomes addictive to many because there is no accountability, and it’s easier to express those hidden emotions online to an anonymous person who cannot see you. Pretty cowardly, right? Although Riot has continuously implemented systems like the tribunal it will never completely remedy the problem, unless the source is actually repaired. All in all, I find it unfortunate that games like League of Legends pose a quick fix to those who feel that they need an escape, when it is realistically making their condition worse, and also further increasing chances of depression in other gamer’s. Remember, the environments may be different but human emotions are still static, whether it is in real life or on online. DepressionFeb17--article_image

Personally, I have no bad intentions against video games because I’ve played them all my life. Saying I hate games and that I want to abolish them would make me a hypocrite. But, I think the way that gaming is advertised today and not played in moderation by many users have caused an increase in mental and physical health problems. Also, smack talk and competitive words have always been a part of gaming, but cyber bullying and verbal abuse is completely different and shows no sportsmanship at all. Society needs to start campaigning healthy gaming education for the upcoming youth. Even the best pro-gamer’s take long breaks and exercise everyday in order to prevent burning out and keeping a healthy lifestyle to maximize their performance. Here are some of my tips for healthy gaming:

  1. Exercise; take morning jogs when you can.
  2. Go out and be social, i.e. spend time with your friends and family.
  3. Take long breaks; like for a couple of hours, not just 10 minutes between queue.
  4. Eat your daily meals, and keep hydrated.
  5. Unless, you are passionately pursuing League of Legends as a career, keep it as a hobby, and prioritize your time.
  6. Find a part time job/career or focus on your education.
  7. Before you type something negative, think about it logically, and put yourself in the others’ shoes.
  8. Do not play when fatigued or in a bad mood.
  9. Have time to work on yourself, so you can improve.
  10. Last but not least, make sure you are truly happy with yourself.

All in all, I am not bashing video games as previously mentioned, but rather presenting a deeper side of it that many people don’t realize. Video games are very enjoyable, interactive, and they can help you learn‒which could possibly reduce chances of Alzheimer’s. However too much of anything is bad. Gaming is easily addictive, which is why many end up abusing the sensation of happiness it emanates. Sort of like oxytocin released in your body, but for video games. On a positive note, studies show that gaming is breaking the gender gap with approximately 40% of gamer’s being female back in 2010(ESRB, 2011). Obviously much higher today. Keep on gaming, but in moderation. Most importantly, make sure that you are having fun!


Written By: Dan InPyo Lee/ Kor