With computer game technology constantly evolving, an increasing amount of teens can't take their hands off of the controller. Aaron Doyle speaks to counsellors and delves into the world of gaming addiction.
Year on year, improvements in computer games has led to a significant increase in young people becoming addicted to gaming.
While there are a lack of studies into the area in Ireland, there are plenty of studies done elsewhere - particularly in America.
One study by US market researchers, NPD shows that four percent of the 3,000 children and teenagers surveyed have admitted to playing over 50 hours a week.
These stats mirror the cases dealt with on a regular basis at Dublin’s Willow Tree Therapy.
“It depends on the time available to the person. Students and young people tend to have more time on their hands, while people in relationships and those who have kids of their own tend to have less time. The worst case scenario I have heard are people who play for ten hours a day,” according to clinical director, Sarah McAuley.
While this might suggest that this is a problem solely for children, adults are also becoming more affected by their addiction to gaming as an increasing amount of games are aimed towards people in their late-teens and early-20s.
Another study from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention at Andrews University in the US show that the average age of an addict is 35 years old.
“We occasionally get people looking to deal with gaming addiction, usually younger men. We usually get around four or five people a year solely looking to tackle gaming addiction,” explains Ms McAuley.
Ger Cooney is a senior addiction counsellor of the Rutland Centre in Templeogue and has noticed the change here.
“Studies suggest that it is on the rise and our findings suggest that there are more young people being affected and involved in gambling and gaming.
“The availability of new technology such as smartphones make it more secretive and easier to do, so we see more young people getting involved,” says Mr Cooney.
There are usually background reasons that lead to people developing these addictions as a means of a release from their issues.
“People who tend to come to centres like ours tend to be struggling with other issues that lead to their addictions. Feelings such as abandonment and neglect tend to rank highly and a lot of people, not just the person addicted, have been hurt by the addictions,” explains Mr Cooney.
This is reiterated by Ms McAuley, who thinks it “usually comes from some form of depression”.
What can be done to eradicate this issue or at least reduce the effects on young people? The experts tend to have a different view as to what can be done to stop it.
“I think less ads will go a long way to sorting out the issue. I also think that there is not enough awareness about this serious issue. It affects people of all ages and it is a serious problem,” says Mr Cooney.
However, it’s not so simple to prevent, according to Ms McAuley, who thinks gamers are going to be addicted no matter what.
“Much like the alcohol industry, the gaming industry is out to make money. They can put out warnings like ‘put down the games after a certain amount of time’, but it really is up to the individual. Outright banning the games is not a good idea either. As we know from other substances," she explains.
"When something becomes illegal, there’s immediately more desire for it - there is no cure," concluds Ms McAuley.