Healthy Gaming Guide

A healthy gamer is a happy gamer

Gaming is more popular than ever and concerns are being raised by stakeholders that the risks to gamers' health may require their attention in the form of gaming limitations. With everyone from casuals to professionals spending an ever-increasing amount of time in front of the screens and devices, we have compiled some considerations to keep you healthy while gaming.

It is worth noting that this is NOT a medical article, and the information contained within is intended to raise awareness of your health when playing video games, it should NOT replace or undermine advice from a doctor or medical professional.

Physical Health

We’ll begin by looking at our physical health while gaming. Hours spent focused on a screen with a much larger quantity of visual stimuli than our eyes our designed for can lead to a range of symptoms including, eye strain, blurred or blinking vision and headaches. Similar to long periods of work at a computer screen this can easily be avoided through 5 minute hourly rest periods, good hydration and well adjusted display settings. Many screens also include an UB filter but if yours doesn't it might well be a worthwhile investment.

Maintaining good posture is also a must, a craned neck and back creates additional stress on you body and can have permanent effects on your health. While gaming make sure your monitor is at eye level or far enough away that you don't need to look down at it. Invest in an ergonomic chair so that you can maintain an upright spinal position.

Tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome are a few of the injuries that can occur due to repetitive strain. There are a variety of products available to help alleviate these issues such as ergonomic keyboards and mice to wrist supports for gamers. You can help yourself without investing though by simply taking regular breaks to stand up, walk around and shake out your arms and legs, this helps your circulatory system and prevents blood pooling in your elbows and feet.

It might sound silly but don’t forget to eat, we’ve all been there on the release day of our favorite games. We sit down, log in and get completely lost in a new world, before we know it it’s mid-afternoon and our stomachs are reminding us of our neglect. Again I will stress the importance of taking breaks from gaming at regular intervals. Go make yourself a meal, sit down away from your computer and have a bite to eat and something to drink.

Mental Health

While it’s easy to spot when your eyes are tired or your back aches, it's much less difficult to explain a restless night’s sleep or a feeling of frustration. Video Games have a huge impact on our mental health, both positively and negatively. Most games both physical and digital rely on a system of risk/cost and reward. They are a permanent quest for self-gratification, we save a village (cost) , we get a cool legendary sword (reward) , we feel good, then we take our shiny new sword and look to repeat that feeling of gratification. In competitive video games when you win you feel fantastic but when you lose you can feel like it wasn’t fair, you wasted time or you are not good enough. These three things can cause anger, disappointment and fear. It is worth noting that many professional gamers, just like athletes, suffer from the third of these feelings often and have professional help in dealing with these feelings.

So how can we limit the amount of energy we give these feelings?

If you felt that something was unfair it will usually trigger a feeling of anger, often directed at what you perceive as the cause. These can be teammates in a game or the games’ system itself. If you feel this way STOP. Just stop playing the game, take a break, have a few deep breaths. It may also help to analyze your own gameplay, was it really unfair or were there things you could have improved on, did your opponent play well. We shouldn’t leap to discredit others accomplishments just because we lost and we should never go into a new game or continue playing while angry as it will compound itself and you will begin to identify more and more unfair things. Extreme anger can cause people to lash out at those around them, for example friends and loved ones.

Disillusionment shortly followed by disappointment occurs when something doesn’t live up to our expectations. If you find yourself frequently feeling this way when playing a game it may well be worth asking yourself if your expectations are reasonable. Do you expect to win every game? Has the game become more than a form of entertainment to you? This unhealthy expectation can be very easily grounded with a little thought. Fundamentally games are entertaining, whether that entertainment is fun, thrilling, challenging etc. depends on the game. Games can be fantastic developmental tools improving a range of skills as well as providing us with many “feelgood” chemicals and are therefore not a waste of time. If after consideration the game still feels that way to you, then perhaps it isn’t the right game for you. You are not bound to playing a single game because you’ve invested too much time/money into it to quit. Cut your losses, stay healthy and find something new.

If you are a more serious gamer, streaming for others’ entertainment, competing in esports competitions or even regularly raiding with your guildmates, you may have had the feeling that they don’t believe you are good enough to keep your position. This is known as imposter syndrome and affects people from many fields including professional artists, sportspeople, managers, actors and singers. If you start to feel this way one of the easiest ways to gain closure is to get feedback from your teammates, viewers and guildmates. Ask them if they think you are performing well enough, in most cases they will say you are and in the event that they say you aren’t you have some solid goals to aim for. Leaving this feeling to develop in your mind can be devastating if you are a professional and unhealthy regardless of your level.

If at any point you feel like you cannot help yourself with these issues please contact a medical professional immediately, you are not alone in feeling that way and there are many points of contact to get you back to your best. Have a happy healthy summer of gaming.

Please remember that this is NOT a medical article, and the information contained within is intended to raise awareness of your health when playing video games, it should NOT replace or undermine advice from a doctor or medical professional.

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