The World Health Organization (WHO) recently made waves when it officially classified gaming disorder as part of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) at the 72nd World Health Assembly. It has since inspired mountains of backlash and responses from gamers around the world on social media, as they voiced how much gaming means to them and how much it actually contributes to their lives.
What Is Gaming Disorder?
According to the WHO, gaming disorder is described as:
“A pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
A person suffers from gaming disorder when his/her/their gaming behaviour pattern is so severe that “it results in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”
What that means is simply that gaming disorder doesn’t correlate to how many hours of gaming a person plays. Instead, it is when gaming itself is prioritized over everything else, which causes his/her/their personal life, relationships (family and friends), hygiene, health, and more to deteriorate greatly.
For example, a person who plays games for a living by streaming them for 12 hours a day but still manages to keep his relationships, health, and finances in check, does not suffer from gaming disorder.
On the other hand, a person who only plays several hours of games daily but fails to maintain a steady job or even take care of his relationships (abandons family and friends) does indeed suffer from gaming disorder.
Keep in mind that gaming disorder can only be officially diagnosed by successfully observing 12 months of continuous or consistent behaviour that fits the description of those suffering from the illness.
Again, it should be noted that it ultimately doesn’t matter how long you actually play your games, but how much it actually affects you negatively or adversely.
Why This Is A Good Thing
There’s nothing wrong with gaming, especially if you play in moderation and understand your priorities in life. Just like gambling or drinking alcohol, the problem arises only when you consume too excessively to the point of addiction, that it becomes a disorder.
Now that gaming disorder has been officially recognized by WHO, they can start developing treatment programs for those with gaming disorders, by helping them control their gaming habits and rehabilitate those suffering from the disease.
This will also help increase awareness amongst medical practitioners and the public at large that gaming disorder should be taken seriously, and that anyone can suffer from the illness, ranging from young children to older teenager and even grown adults.
According to the WHO, studies show that “only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video-gaming activities” actually suffer from gaming disorder. This means that the majority of gamers are not afflicted by gaming disorder.
Why It’s Not Such A Good Thing
Gaming is already stigmatized by the general public, largely by those whom gaming is not part of their lives (those who don’t play, watch or partake in gaming). It has long been demonized by the mass media, who portray gaming as being bad influences on the youth and somehow inciting them to commit violent or lewd acts.
These same people may take WHO’s official classification of gaming disorder the wrong way, using it to further justify their negative views of gaming.
This will only make matters worse by making it harder for those actually suffering from gaming disorder to seek help for their illness, becoming even more ostracized and shunned than they were before.
Effects Of Gaming Disorder
It remains to be seen what effects the WHO’s classification of gaming disorder will yield in the near future, as it will only officially come into effect starting from 1 January 2022, which is almost three years away from now.
Last year, international organizations representing the games industry already united to challenge the idea of gaming disorders being recognized as an illness. The official statement came from the European Games Developer Federation.
It was officially supported by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, the Brazilian Union of Video and Games, Interactive Entertainment South Africa, Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, Interactive Software Federation of Europe, Korea Association of Game Industry, and the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) itself.
Their official statement ended with the coalition of international organizations stating that classifying gaming as a disorder will “create moral panic and may lead to abuse of diagnosis as the inclusion is not based on a high level of evidence, as would be required to formalize any other disorder.”
It’s true that being addicted to anything would be harmful, whether it be gaming, eating or drinking. Too much of anything is never good but how much of something is considered bad differs from person to person.
Some might find playing two or three straight hours of gaming already excessive while some might consider that mild. Officially diagnosing gaming as a disorder might only lead to a worsening stigma for gaming if it’s abused by certain parties.
Gaming is now as much a community activity (in the form of esports) and a healthy means of social interaction (online games), so it would be appreciated if the world at large doesn’t blow WHO’s gaming disorder classification out of proportion.