Here's why students are tackling loneliness through gaming
Students at Oxford Brookes University are gaming alone to deal with loneliness however this can become more dangerous than you may think
Two years ago, the Department of Education made the mental health of students a priority, however a new survey reveals that still over two fifths of male students would not feel comfortable seeking out help when feeling lonely at university. This figure is considerably lower than female students, at just over 70%.
Instead of attending social events and meeting new people, now over 60% of students say that they spend ‘most of the day’ in their university bedrooms which can lead to isolation, prompting loneliness.
In an attempt to combat feelings of isolation while living at university, almost two fifths of students are turning to gaming (37.5%).
It is no surprise that so many students are regularly gaming as the gaming multiverse constantly evolves to become more inclusive. Earlier this week ‘Playstation’ announced the new ‘Playstation Plus’ will be offering free games in June, allowing students to access games without a cost.
The comfort of gaming
Online communities formed through gaming can provide an escape. A student at Oxford Brookes University, Chris England Rendon states that, ‘there’s definitely a security and a safety mentally to playing’.
He further explains that gaming allows you to ‘shut off the outside world, it's very warm and you know what you're getting into’. For many students gaming contrasts with the stresses and social pressures of student life.
However, spending too much time inside gaming can further lead to loneliness as individuals isolate themselves from their university communities. According to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems’.
Chris has struggled with the addictive nature of gaming from the age of six. For people with an addictive personality, he compares gaming to ’a runaway steam train’. He stated that, ‘I had several times when I tried to stop but I would go back’.
According to the World Health Organisation, gaming as escapism can become an addictive behaviour, leading to gaming disorder: a pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities.
‘If you have an addictive personality … it's like a runaway steam train’.
However, reflecting on his addiction Chris stated that he ‘played 3000 hours on one digital distributor’ which is the equivalent to 125 days. Before trying gaming for the first time, Chris was an avid reader. He says that gaming ‘provided the escapism of books, on crack’.
‘I played 3000 hours on one digital distributor’
Although Chris warns of the dangers of gaming alone, he advocates gaming with others to aid loneliness, he says, ‘look at covid and how many people didn’t have an interaction, especially if you're young and you have a friendship group, gaming helped that for sure’.
Why is gaming so difficult to quit?
For students it is difficult to know where to turn to when gaming becomes a problem as it isolates individuals from the rest of society.
Over half of the students in a recent survey answered ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ when asked ‘Do you have someone you trust at university that you could talk to if you need a chat?’ which demonstrates a lack of support for isolated students.
According to a report by Mind last November, over a third of Britons say they don’t have the support or tools to deal with mental health problems.
Students are not alone when feeling lonely, this year ten million people will need support for their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic isolation, however according to the Centre for Mental Health, the demand for therapy is surpassing supply.