eSports – legitimate sport or teenage addiction problem?

PHOTO: China Daily

The Thai Mental health department is urging the government to rethink any decision to recognise online gaming.

Moves to officially recognise eSports (electronic gaming sports) could lead to children becoming addicted to online games, according to health experts. A Mental Health Department adviser Dr Yongyud Wongpiromsarn says the promotion of eSports would likely do more harm than good.

“We have already established a panel to raise this issue at the National Health Assembly forum later this year,” he said.

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Yongyud hoped that relevant authorities, including political office holders, would review the Sports Authority of Thailand’s decision in 2017 to recognise eSports as a form of sport.

“We are worried that in the end more Thai children will become addicted to games.”

He says most countries in the world had not treated online games as sports and pointed out that although eSports made a presence at the 2018 Asian Games, it was there just as a demonstration game.

A study in the US revealed recently that just one in 1 million online-gamers could become a professional in the field, he said.

“Dozens of thousands, meanwhile, have become game addicts.”

In Thailand, the Institute of Child and Adolescent Mental Health reported that as many as 60 children had sought treatments for game addiction in recent months.

“The number of game addicts has risen by one-fold since eSports has become recognised as a form of sport,” Yongyud said.

He said his concern was shared by people working for the protection of children. Some entrepreneurs promoted eSports by claiming that players’ skills could build a future career, and some even offered to host eSports competitions for schools.

“In France, students can’t even play with cellphones in school compounds,” Yongyud said. In Thailand, at least eight universities offer courses related to eSports.

Teerarat Pantawee, who heads the National Health Assembly’s panel on children and media, told a recent forum that eSports had grown in popularity partly because there were many official eSports contests and promotions.

“Thailand’s eSports industry is now worth more than 10 billion baht. It has also been growing at the rate of 12 per cent per annum,” she said.

STORY: The Nation

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