Gaming addiction is classed as disorder
Gaming has earned a bad reputation - people dedicate hours each week to levelling up their characters and earning loot and experience. Casual video game use can be a great way to relax and de-stress but what happens when it goes too far? The WHO has officially classified video game addiction as a mental disorder, as of June 18th, 2018. What does that mean for the gaming industry and for those that enjoy playing the occasional video game?
Introducing Gaming Disorder
The final draft of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) defines gaming disorder by three distinct behavioral characteristics:
1. Impaired control over gaming – You can't control how often you play or how long.
2. Increased priority – Gaming takes over your life and becomes your primary priority, negatively affecting your business and personal life.
3. Negative consequence has no effect – The gaming behavior continues in spite of any negative consequences that might be presented by your job or the people in your life.
Disorder vs. Disease
Why has this been classified as a gaming disorder instead of a disease? It is due to the duration of time that symptoms have to be present before a diagnosis can be made. For a disease, symptoms may only need to be present for days or weeks for a diagnosis to be made. For a disorder, especially one like gaming disorder, symptoms need to be present for a full 12 months before a diagnosis can be made.
It is estimated that there are over a billion gamers across the globe with a number of them playing for upwards of 8 hours a week on their consoles or PCs, so why hasn't a diagnosis like gaming disorder been introduced before now?
Not everyone believes that gaming disorder should have been added to the latest update of the ICD-11. A paper that was published in 2016 argued against it, stating that there isn't enough high-quality research to declare gaming disorder a real thing, nor is there enough of a consensus about the symptoms of problematic gaming to make an official diagnosis.
A follow up paper did acknowledge that there are some gamers who allow their games to take over their life, there isn't enough evidence to create a new disorder. It is true that some people can become addicted to gaming, just as they can become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex or gambling but the majority of gamers don't allow it to affect their life.
There have been cases where gaming has become dangerous or even deadly – there was a case in Korea where two parents allowed their 3-month-old infant to starve to death while they spent their days raising a virtual baby in a video game, but these cases are outliers. For most of us, gaming is a great way to spend time with friends and destress after a long day at work.
The Future of Gaming
What does this new disorder mean for the future of the gaming industry? Right now, it's too early to tell. Implementing time limits which prevent gamers from playing for long periods of time will only serve to chase players away from these games, turning their money and their time to games that don't limit gameplay. It would also make it harder for professional gamers on sites like YouTube and Twitch to make a living.
It may not do anything to the gaming industry – gaming disorder is currently only listed in the WHO's IDC-11. The DSM V, which is primarily used for mental health diagnoses in the United States, only lists Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition that requires further study, not as one that should be use for an official diagnosis.
Only time will tell what kind of impact that this new addition to the ICD-11 will have on the gaming industry and gamers in general. It may have no effect at all but all we can do at this point is wait and continue to enjoy our games.