Many of us have watched in pain as our children become completely enveloped in a video game; the bright movement on the screen reflected on their frozen faces for hours. We see how addictive this “controlled substance” can be, and we wonder if it is something more serious than a hobby.
According to a recent release by the World Health Organization (WHO), “gaming disorder” will be formally added to the 11th edition of its diagnostic handbook, legitimizing many parent’s concerns about their children’s pastime. But according to many skeptical experts, maybe we shouldn’t start sending our children to gaming rehab just yet.
Why it is a disorder:
First, let’s go over what it is about constant gaming that earned it a name in the universe of diseases, disorders, addictions and injuries contained in the WHO’s diagnostic handbook. Video game creators are devoted to increasing its addictive qualities through algorithms that target human behavioral weaknesses in order to recruit and maintain their market. In other words, it’s created to keep you hooked in the same way a drug does. The pastime is classified as a disorder when for at least 12 months, a person consistently chooses gaming over other activities, resulting in observable negative consequences within his or her personal life. In the same vein as a drug addiction, this behavior causes serious strain on interpersonal relationships, physical wellness, and professional or academic development.
Why it may be too soon to call it a disorder:
However, according to other doctors and scientists, this description is not specific enough to villainize gaming. Simply put, the criteria for the disorder states that sometimes when people enjoy an activity, they engage in that activity too much and neglect other parts of their life. But one could use the same description to classify people obsessed with their jobs, with food or with their significant other as having a medical disorder. In fact, we aren’t really aware of what exactly makes video games so debilitatingly addictive in the same way that we can scientifically classify elements of opioids, tobacco or cocaine. For this reason, the WHO itself hesitates to call it an addiction but defines it as a “disorder due to addictive behavior” by lack of evidence. But in that case, many ask why it is ready to be defined as a disorder at all.
Ultimately, it is impossible to discuss modern media without considering the potentially harmful effects of video games. It is considered in the context of violence, risky sex, crime and a host of other public safety issues. There is no doubt that it displays problematic behaviors and encourages binge gaming. But is this enough to make it a medical issue yet?
What do you think? Are you concerned that you or a loved one may have gaming disorder?