In an interesting decision on May 25th, the World Health Organization (WHO) is officially recognizing gaming addiction as an illness.
So what is a gaming disorder? According to WHO, it is:
"A pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:
- Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
- Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
WHO also explained that in order for gaming disorder to be diagnosed,
“The behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in signigficant impairement in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”
WHO has advised gamers to be more alert of the time that they spend on gaming, especially if gaming has taken over other daily activities. Do note that playing video games aren’t inherently bad. It only becomes a disorder when physical or psychological health and social functioning is impaired.
In 2015, a Taiwanese man was found dead after a 3-day gaming binge, and he wasn’t the only person to die while gaming.
Now it is easy to dismiss those cases, but addiction can be real and brutal. Even if you can easily separate yourself from gaming, others may not be able to. Having an official distinction for gaming disorder gives parents more ammo in the argument against playing a ton of video games.
Is this something that can be diagnosed? What is the treatment for it?
Will people end up going to gaming rehab?
There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this decision. In short, it probably doesn’t affect much. Games publishers are going to push back on the decision, something the Entertainment Software Association had already done before the final decision was made. There is a huge pushback from the gaming and Fortnite community right now. People are comparing gaming to other time sucks like binge watching Netflix or spending hours on Reddit. How is gaming really that much different?
Some experts are worried that this new classification is unnecessary and could lead to video game bans throughout the world. They also feel that this could demonise video games and detract from the positive effects they bring as well.
A mother of a son with gaming disorder tweeted how her son is now earning a living doing what he loves (including buying his $12k car when he was just 17). An example of good gaming maybe? Unlike drug or alcohol addiction which have no positives, gaming CAN become a legitimate career.
Like everything else, MODERATION is the key.