Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared video game addiction is a mental disorder. For clarification from WHO, gaming addiction is prioritizing games over relationship building, interacting with others, daily activities and thought process. For it to be considered a gaming disorder, it has to be seen over the course of 12 months. Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, spoke further on the topic and stated only qualified doctors should be able to diagnose properly. While it stated it has to be seen over the course of 12 months, severe cases can be an exception. They have compared gaming addiction similar to gambling and substance use. Poznyak hopes” that inclusion of gaming disorder in the classification will stimulate debate as well as further research and international collaboration.”
Recently, BBC posted an article/video of a teen talking about his “addiction” as play games for 20 hours a week. The article became famous and spread throughout the internet on Monday which further villainized gaming. However, we should remain skeptical of the reasoning. Games have been villainized by organizations and government for causing violence and shootings despite huge lack of evidence. With the popularization of Fortnite in mainstream media, it has caused an even bigger target regarding gaming addiction.
Even researchers disagree on the gaming addiction as a mental disorder such as Anthony Bean, a licensed psychologist and executive director at The Telos Project, a nonprofit mental health clinic in Fort Worth, Texas. He stated, “I’m a clinician and a researcher, so I see people who play video games and believe themselves to be on the lines of addicted.” In his experience, they’re actually using gaming “more as a coping mechanism for either anxiety or depression.” He also noted that most clinical doctors aren’t too familiar with gaming habits, in general, to diagnose people with “gaming addiction.” If they aren’t familiar with a illness, how can you accurately state somebody with a mental disorder if you are unfamiliar with the topic? Bean also noted that different effects on different people. Someone playing “Minecraft” is going to be completely different from someone playing “World of Warcraft,” he said: “They’re two vastly different genres.” They have different effects because the games are in different environments and you interact with people differently.
Games often receive a harsh feedback because gaming isn’t age-gated like drugs or gambling. Anybody can play which is the beauty in it. Of course, anything done in excess is bad, whether it’s eating, watching television, or exercising. Scientist and researchers don’t have enough information to fully develop a conclusion on the effects of gaming because every game is different. Other countries like Korea and China have huge gaming addicts who go to PC cafes all day. Korea even has gaming rehab centers for addicts. It’s a tricky thing to solve but I personally believe considering gaming addiction as a mental disorder is too extreme.
What do you think about people who play too many games? Do you know anybody whose gaming has ruined parts of their lives?
WHO statement on Gaming Addiction
BBC – 20 hours weekly video
CNN – WHO and Bean’s statement on gaming addiction
Business Insider – South Korea rehab centers