Gaming is a hobby, like reading, listening to music or playing a sport. As with other hobbies, those participating in playing games can engage with it deeply and passionately. There is no conclusive research identifying a link between games themselves and addiction. In a few cases people have been known to play games excessively, but this is often likely to be down to the individual playing the game and not the content or medium. If you are concerned about the health of someone who is playing games excessively then you should consult your GP.
Millions of people play games because they enjoy them; and some people enjoy them more than others. Playing video games is simply another daily activity that can give people pleasure. In fact, UK gamers aged 16-49 spend most time surfing the internet (83% spending more than six hours a week) or watching TV (71% spending more than 6 hours a week). Only 24% spend more than six hours per week playing console or PC video games, less than the proportion who read books for that long (28%).
Games should be played as part of an active and healthy lifestyle and can have many beneficial effects. They help people of all ages to develop social skills such as collaboration and turn taking and nurture strategic thinking. Playing active technology and fitness games can also improve physical health, and offer other general health benefits that result from this.
However, regular breaks are vital for healthy game play. UKIE recommends that players should take regular breaks – at least five minutes every 45 – 60 minutes as a rule of thumb.
We recommend that parents use the parental controls systems available on all main games consoles to control how their children play games: parental controls can be used to restrict the amount of time spent playing games, limit internet access and control access to age appropriate content.
For further information, an independent assessment of this issue was undertaken as part of the government’s Byron review. Another useful report is the BBFC’s research “to improve understanding of what players enjoy about video games and to explain their preferences for particular games.”