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The Death of a Gamer: Health Issues in Gaming August 8, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in News & Opinions.
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I try and stay current on all gaming news, even that which reaches the eyes of the mainstream media. When gamers are mentioned in the media, it’s usually a negative connotation – video games are the devil de jour right now, and everybody is quick to offer a “professional opinion” on the latest shooting or massacre attributed to video games. We’re demonized quite often, if you didn’t already notice.

However, not every video game related news story brought up by the media is negative, per se. Take for example, last week’s news about 20 year-old Chris Staniforth of Sheffield, England. Chris was a game design student at Leicester University, and an avid fan of Halo. He passed away suddenly from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis, usually caused by being sedentary for too long. Chris was a “promising young student” with a lifetime filled with gaming ahead of him.

It’s tragic; it really is. Of course, I didn’t know Chris – I’d never heard of him until I clicked a link on Google News detailing the death of a young “Xbox Addict.”

I said earlier not every news piece the mainstream picks up about gaming is “negative.” Unfortunately for Chris and his family, the news of his death is obviously negative. Chris’ family is trying to spin this into a positive for the world, warning young folks about the health risks of being sedentary and long late-night gaming sessions. However, the general tone of these reports is still negative.

Chris is almost never referred to by his name before being called an “Xbox Addict.” The headlines always read something like “Xbox Addict dies from blood clot” and his name is never mentioned before the words “addict.” I have a problem with this.

Is a person that plays basketball all day, every day an “addict?” What about chefs? Are they “addicts?” Musicians, gardeners, and every other hobbyist in the world are never called “addicts” – it’s just a hobby. Gamers, though – oh man, you guys have a serious problem. But, that’s a topic for another article. We’re talking about our health.

Sure, we’re not all living, breathing pinnacles of human health and fitness. Personally, I could stand to lose some weight. A lot of it, in fact. I would be fucking ecstatic to lose the weight of a 10 year-old and be at what some would call a “normal” weight for my height. I’m working on it, albeit slowly, but I’m not an unhealthy person. Ask any of my friends, and they’ll tell you 9 times out of ten I would order a salad at a restaurant instead of a big greasy burger. Hell, I eat leaf spinach raw – why the hell do I weigh 285 lbs?!

Like many gamers in the world, I get very little exercise. My metabolism is slower than a turtle glued to a cement brick. Sure, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight by cutting the soda and junk, but my future weight loss hinges on my ability to get off my fat ass and go running. Other than my weight and the higher-than-average blood pressure that comes along with being a fatty, I’m healthy. Of course, if I stay at the weight I am, I’m at risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and many other nasty ailments I’d rather steer clear of.

Was Chris an unhealthy individual? Not necessarily – but his lack of movement caused a fatal blood clot in his legs, and when that got to his heart, well, we all know what happened to poor Chris. My deepest sympathies go out to his family, and I hope his death was not in vain for the rest of us. We need to learn a lesson from Chris’ condition and apply the knowledge to ourselves.

We, as gamers, have serious health issues. We get less sleep, our diets generally suck and we get less exercise; it’s a bad combination that could wreck our lives forever unless we do something about it. Think about your own habits whilst gaming – do you snack? What do you drink? How often do you take a break to stretch and get out of your gaming chair? Are you forgoing sleep to get that extra level in?

Your health is dependent on all of these factors. If not properly balanced, we become unhealthy and risk a shorter lifespan because of it. Do your gaming habits hinder your health, or supplement it?