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‘We are like the next reality show to people’: inside the Russia-Ukraine war sparking anxiety for World War III

Russia has begun to invade neighbouring country Ukraine as of today, Thursday 24 February, under orders from President Vladamir Putin, who announced a “special military operation” at dawn. After the President’s declaration, Russian forces began crossing Ukrainian borders and bombing military targets near its largest cities.

The decision prompted world leaders to issue warnings that this move could spark the largest scale war in Europe since 1945.

Russia has amassed over 150,000 combat troops on the borders of Ukraine, with an additional 34,000 separate and lightly armed divisions in the pro-Russian statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk. When Putin announced a military action in eastern Ukraine, he claimed it was intended to “demilitarise” the country and to protect civilians. In a pre-dawn televised announcement, the President stated that the military manoeuvre was in response to threats coming from Ukraine and pleas for help from the separatists in the neighbouring country. He went on to say that Russia had no intention to occupy Ukraine and the Ukrainian “regime” is responsible for the bloodshed.

Moments later, just after Putin’s announcement at around 6 am in Moscow, reports of attacks on Ukrainian military targets began. Explosions were heard outside Kiev and reported in several other major cities. Warning sirens also started to sound across the capital, whose population is around three million. The fleets deployed amount to an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s total ground forces, according to The Guardian. Half of Moscow’s troops have also been utilised in the region.

Russian forces breached the border in multiple destinations, Belarus in the north, Crimea in the south and Russia in the east. Currently, an estimated seven people are known to have been killed, including civilians, according to the BBC. However, one Ukrainian presidential adviser has alleged that more than 40 soldiers have died and dozens more were wounded.

Following the invasion, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law across the country today. In his address to the nation, he told his citizens to remain calm and said that the country will “defeat everyone,” as noted by The Independent. Severing all diplomatic relations with Russia, the Ukrainian leader also stated “we are strong. We are ready for everything.” The invasion is set to be one of the biggest since 2003 with the US-led operation in Iraq, where 175,000 troops were deployed.

Furthermore, it appears as though Russia is attacking the military infrastructure of Ukraine with early strike explosions that have been reported at airfields, military warehouses and military headquarters. A UN security meeting was also scheduled as the war broke.

Putin’s reasoning also stems from unfounded claims he made previously in a separate televised announcement this week. The angry address included assertions that Ukraine’s democratically elected government were to blame for eight years of genocide.

Over in Washington, President Joe Biden has called the move “an unprovoked attack,” committing to further action being taken against Moscow, and said that the US and its allies will respond in a “decisive way.” However, Putin has warned the international community of foreign leaders that they’d witness “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” over any attempts at interference.

The Independent further reported that the UN Secretary General Secretary-General António Guterres has asked Russia’s leader to withdraw his troops and “give peace a chance.” Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has labelled the conflict a “catastrophe for our continent” and condemned Putin for choosing “a path of bloodshed and destruction”.

SCREENSHOT interviewed one Ukrainian citizen about her experience and views on the growing tensions between the two countries.

“The last two weeks became especially tensive. People are different all over the world so there were diverse reactions to the situation,” she said. Many fled during the rising possibility of war on the horizon. The woman also noted that “eventually, some people had their bags packed when others were too tired of politics and just stopped reading [the] news.”

The woman admitted that she ultimately feels “doomed,” despite support from citizens across the world and in western countries. “Their governments are not ready for a war with Russia. All they can do is just blame Putin and condemn their actions. But none will really stand up for Ukraine,” she explained.

“I feel like the whole world is watching, empathising and can’t do anything. It reminds me of times when everyone was watching Squid Games. We are like the next reality show to people,” The woman went on to share.

Fears for the future and an impending third World War have begun. Sandra de Monte, founder and director of MindBerry Group spoke to Metro about the anxiety many are feeling across the world as we speak. With credits in global health, psychotherapy and counselling from Harvard and Regents University, De Monte said “the disturbing events that are unfolding in Ukraine have, understandably, left people across the world anxious.”

“Unfortunately, these types of events are often reminders of how many circumstances and situations affecting society are outside of our control,” she went on to elaborate.

Though it’s true that there’s no way to self-care yourself out of the anxiety, for those of us who can, “it’s important to assess how you’re doing, check in with loved ones, and take steps to prioritise your emotional wellbeing.”

China’s war on ‘electronic drugs’: is online gaming an addiction risk for teenagers?

Gaming has come a long way since the pass-and-play sessions of Crash Bandicoot on the PS2. As technology has evolved, so has the gaming industry. The online gaming industry, in particular, is practically unrecognisable from its predecessors. No longer is gaming a niche hobby, it’s a multimillion-dollar industry rivalling Hollywood in terms of its outreach and sheer popularity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in China, where the Chinese games market is set to reach a value of 35 billion dollars in 2021. According to ISFE, the average gamer is now 31 years old. However, China believes online gaming is “destroying a generation”—likening the hobby to “opium” when it comes to its addictiveness.

Online gaming firms dubbed as “electronic drugs”

Two of China’s biggest online gaming firms, Tencent and NetEase, have had their shares fall more than 10 per cent in early Hong Kong trade after a Chinese state media outlet called online gaming “electronic drugs.” The stigmatisation—portrayed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state-run media—is not a new phenomenon. According to the BBC, investors have become “increasingly concerned” about Beijing cracking down on online gaming firms. It comes after authorities in the country announced a series of measures to tighten their grip on technology and private education companies over the recent months.

An article, written by the state-run publication Economic Information Daily, stated that many teenagers have become addicted to online gaming—thus having a negative impact on them. It also cited that students would play Tencent’s popular game Honor of Kings for up to eight hours a day and suggested there should be more curbs on the industry. “No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation,” the article went on to argue, likening the online gaming industry to “spiritual opium.”

Since the removal of the article from the publication’s account on WeChat, both firms’ shares have recovered. However, the article has changed the face of online gaming in China as we know it. In response to the claims, Tencent has announced its plans to introduce measures that will reduce children’s access to, and time spent on, its Honor of Kings game—the firm also hinted that it will eventually roll out such policies on all of its games.

Add this to the growing list of new measures Tencent is implementing in a bid to stop minors from becoming “addicted to online games.” It was only in 2019 when the firm—the biggest game company in the world—announced it would roll out facial recognition technology that will scan gamers faces every evening in order to catch minors breaking a gaming curfew and helping to prevent video game addiction. Dystopian or a valid measure to prevent addiction? I’ll let you decide.

Gaming addiction is a legitimate problem

So is video game addiction actually a problem? China seems to think so. Prevention of video game addiction is literally the law of the land. It’s been an aspect of the law that has been evolving over the past decade or so—recently, however, it’s hit some important milestones. China introduced a law that banned minors from playing video games between 10 pm and 8 am, or for playing more than 90 minutes on a weekday in 2019. A moment of silence, please, for the teenagers in China who have been robbed from sneaking to the family PC in the dead of night to get their League of Legends fix.

Jokes aside, China hasn’t been the only culture to wake up to the harmful damage video game addiction can cause to children. Albeit, they’ve been the only ones to implement measures that many in the West would consider Draconian. Video game addiction has recently been added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a psychiatric ‘handbook’ used to list all mental health disorders and diagnose them appropriately. The condition ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’ is listed up there with gambling addiction and substance addiction. Research has also suggested how 1 to 16 per cent of video gamers meet the criteria for addiction—when unaddressed, such an addiction could have a detrimental impact on mental health and work or social life.

But isn’t straight-up banning minors from gaming at night a bit overkill? Many would argue yes. It’s a two-way street: I’m inclined to believe that taking such measures is a narrow-minded response to the problem. In fact, gaming can bring many positive benefits in terms of mental health and allowing people to socialise with others—which is particularly important, now more than ever, in the era of pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Of course, addiction is a serious mental health disorder and should be addressed accordingly. However, stripping every teenager the ability to game for longer than 90 minutes to prevent cases of addiction seems to be somewhat harsh. There are people out there addicted to mac and cheese, should we put a limit on that too? Ultimately, there will be people who agree and disagree. As new technology evolves, so will the gaming industry. How we will face this change, and the problems it brings, is still up for debate.