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  • Writer's pictureIndy Goodwin

Bingeing through the apocalypse - Binge play behaviour

Remember when LAN parties looked like this?

With the current lockdown binge gaming sessions have never been more enticing. Stuck in the house with nothing to do? It's a perfect time to tackle the backlog. Thanks, Covid-19. As I make a career out of being a video games journalist binge sessions are a semi regular occurance, but one particularly long Sims 4 session that lasted for 10+ hours got me thinking. 

As regular readers of this blog will know I have a mental health condition and I was curious to see if this was something that was a common complaint, whether this condition made a person more likely to binge play, and if they did, how they saw these sessions.  Were they enjoyable?  Or bothersome?


With the WHO officially classifying a new disorder called Gaming Disorder, perhaps this problem is more widespread than I may have initially thought.  Being diagnosed with it is a lengthy process, involving observation of gaming habits over 12 months, and potential sufferers must meet the requirements below.

The disorder is characterized by "impaired control" with increasing priority given to gaming and "escalation," despite "negative consequences."

If the effects are more severe and all conditions are met, a diagnosis may be made earlier, but unfortunately for now a diagnosis is that is all it would mean, with no treatment plans being outlined.  With several journalists admitting to regular late night binge gaming sessions, and if you’re a paid Twitch streamer... well binge gaming is essentially a job description, is part of the problem normalisation of this behaviour?  When people are dying because they played until they dropped dead we have to start looking at it a bit more carefully.

Don’t get me wrong.  The purpose of this article is not to fearmonger, merely to analyse why someone might binge, with a focus on mental illness as a possible contributing factor. Looking at the 100 participants* that answered there are some very clear trends emerging.  86.8% of all surveyed had some form of mental health difficulties, with 19.3% of respondants playing for longer than 5 hours in a single session.  When asked if the length of time they played games for bothered them at all, 27% responded with yes.  Those are some big numbers.  

It certainly seems that binge playing is something that players are worried about. Particularly with fewer respondants than those worrying about it saying their playtime went on for the amount of time to be considered bingeing.  5 hours and above are considered play sessions long enough to be classified as binges. 

With the sheer amount of people identifying mental health difficulties it is also quite difficult to seperate whether it has an effect on the propensity to binge at all.  With 86.3% saying they have mental health difficulties compared to 19.3% saying they binge play, I’d say that mental illness does not seem to have that much of an effect, but with a lack of neurotypical base to judge from I am unable to make any truly meaningful conclusions on this front. Disappointing, but not unexpected.

Unfortunately though that makes this conclusion somewhat difficult.  I cannot say for sure whether mental health has an effect on whether you will be more likely to binge play.

Player comments do seem to concur with my theory however. One respondent said "This winter I got very depressed and discovered Breath of the Wild and ended up playing for weeks. I only left the house for work, it was like a desperate mental escape."

Another respondent said "I admit I tend to binge play when I feel down. It helps me to identify whatever brought me down with the enemies and killing them cheers me up."

Everyone needs something that makes them feel safe, an escape, but if you feel like you might be facing an addiction problem, or losing yourself in games for extended periods because you can’t face your life get some help.  Sometimes talking is all you have to do to make a problem feel smaller.  Escape is nice, but be mindful of the life outside it.  No matter how bad it may seem in comparison. Life is unpredictable, but you could miss the best bits if you hide all the time.

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