National

Rise in game addicts prompts Japan to enhance consultation system

Kyodo

The government is set to strengthen the capacity of consumer affairs centers across the nation to support game addicts and their families, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday.

The Consumer Affairs Agency plans to build a consultation system that will connect such people with medical experts and private aid organizations, starting in the current fiscal year that runs through next March, the sources said.

Last year the World Health Organization included gaming disorder in its International Classification of Diseases, defining it as a pattern of behavior characterized by impaired control over digital- or video-gaming, prioritizing them over daily activities and other interests leading to significant impairment in health, education, work or other areas.

As general interest in online and video games has grown, so has concern regarding minors who spend more time than usual playing games at home, especially since recent school closures and stay-at-home requests by authorities amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to a 2019 nationwide survey commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 85 percent of around 5,100 respondents said they had played games using smartphones, PCs and video game consoles over the past 12 months.

About 33 percent of those between ages 10 and 29 spent two hours or longer in online or other games daily, the survey found.

Consumer affairs centers, which handle consumer-related issues and complaints, have been receiving numerous calls about expensive game fees and queries about gaming disorder from parents of children suspected of suffering from it.

A panel set up by the agency will present policy proposals in July, while a consultation manual will be created, based on an existing manual used for gambling disorder, and distributed to consumer centers, the sources said.

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