Gamers in the UK are suffering from anxiety and other stress-related disorders in worrying numbers, according to a recent study. 32% of players reported suffering from anxiety or another stress disorder "at least several times per year", and 38% of UK players had also sought out professional mental health services at some point in their lives.
The study, carried out by MY.GAMES in association with the Fair Play Alliance (FPA) and International Game Developers Association (IGDA), surveyed over 21,000 people across Europe and North America. The participants were mainly Revelation, Skyforge, and Warface players, although participants also entered the study independently through the FPA and IGDA.
The study found that gaming has been an important coping mechanism for many players, particularly within the last year of lockdown restrictions and virus-related fears. 38% of all players surveyed reported spending more time with their friends in games than before the lockdown, and 25% of players reported communicating in-game more than they used to.
Also uncovered among the participants was an awareness of the worrying presence of toxicity in the online gaming space. Over 50% of those surveyed reported encountering insults, trolling or aggressive behaviour from other players in-game. Even more concerning is how 12% stated that these encounters have negatively affected their mental health.
While this study has shown that gaming is an important tool in the fight against isolation, both within and beyond this pandemic, there's no denying that toxicity in gaming culture is holding it back. Renee Gittins, Executive Director of IGDA, believes that moderation systems, positive culture cultivation and exclusion of the worst offenders can curb the toxicity which runs rampant in some gaming communities. She says: "Management of communities is even more important with the increase in online gaming and its importance in combating social isolation."
The MY.GAMES study was conducted at the end of 2020, and the majority of participants reported playing games weekly.