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Author: Emily Reynolds

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‘It consumed my life’: inside a gaming addiction treatment centre



As the World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition, one UK treatment centre reveals how it is trying to tackle the problem

Ian* was in his 20s when he started gaming in the mid-1990s. A long-time interest in building PCs had developed into an initially healthy interest in first-person shooters like Counter Strike and Team Fortress, which he’d play at weekends and when he came home from work.

It was the online element of these games, he says, that really changed his relationship to gaming, and what started as a hobby quickly took over his life.

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Uber’s plans to identify drunk passengers could endanger women | Emily Reynolds



The company’s poor track record when it comes to sexual assault makes its new AI project a scary prospect

It’s impossible to say exactly how much money Uber makes from drunk people, but if the number of bleary-eyed people wandering around on Friday and Saturday nights trying to find their summoned cars is anything to go by, it’s probably quite a lot. The company clearly knows its audience: this week, it applied for a patent for an AI that could spot drunk or high passengers simply by the way they walked, typed or held their phone.

Related: Uber developing technology that would tell if you’re drunk

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Could adding friction to spending improve people’s mental health?



Banking is easier than ever thanks to contactless and mobile transactions. But making it simple to spend money isn’t all good

A recent report from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has revealed what many people with mental health problems already knew – mental illess can have a significant, and often terrifying, impact on your finances.

Anxious? Good luck tackling the bank statements piling up, unopened. Having a manic episode? Time to spend thousands of pounds on things you’ll never use! Depressed? … What was my pin again?

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Mario, you crossed into our world at the worst time – it’s no game over here | Emily Reynolds



The moustachioed plumber’s latest adventure takes place in a lifelike New York. But gaming should give us valuable respite from reality, not more of it

Mario is coming to a street near you. His latest outing, Super Mario Odyssey, was unveiled in a Nintendo trailer earlier this month, and shows the moustachioed plumber gleefully sprinting around a facsimile of New York, hopping over taxis and scaling skyscrapers. Elsewhere, he swings through dewy forests and slides through realistically animated streams. The angry, sentient plant pots may be slightly less believable, but that’s besides the point – Mario has been plucked from the multicoloured fantasy of the Mushroom Kingdom and dumped into our much less palatable reality.

Related: And breathe: the computer games helping kids relax

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Sea Hero Quest is of huge benefit to medical researchers. So what’s the catch? | Emily Reynolds



A game providing data from 2.4 million players will help research into the early stages of Alzheimer’s. But the move raises questions about privacy

In tech circles, alongside words such as “scaleable” and “the gig economy”, you often hear the phrase “tech for good” bandied around. Sometimes it’s a fairly innocuous but ultimately toothless concept, essentially denoting the idea that technology has the potential to be a driver for positive social change but not doing very much about it. Other times it can take on a more creepily utopian tone, suggesting that should the world more closely represent the shiny libertarian enclaves of Silicon Valley, the world’s problems would be solved. And sometimes – just sometimes – it does what it says on the tin.

Related: Sea Hero Quest: the mobile phone game helping fight dementia

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A digital detox sounds great. But using the internet mindfully is better | Emily Reynolds



Like many young people, I live much of my life online. While it can be isolating, the internet can also aid mental health

Last week, in a largely futile attempt to actually do some work, I installed a browser extension that blocked pretty much any website I could possibly distract myself with. Twitter: gone. Facebook: gone. Even my emails, which I obsessively tend to in order to feel moderately productive, were off limits for an hour.

Having found new and imaginative ways to waste my own time, what surprised me most was not how much more work I did, but the sheer frequency with which I attempted to access the internet. I’d incessantly tap “twitter.com” into the address bar, somehow immediately forgetting it was blocked. I’d click on my still-open Facebook tab to check my feed before remembering there was no point. Every time I finished a sentence I’d flit away from my work again, trying to exchange 10 seconds of productivity for 10 minutes of distraction. I knew I spent a lot of time online – but not this much.

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