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Gaming disorder, an actual disorder or just a huge hoax?

Published: 17:28, 03 June 2019
Collage of PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
PS4, Xbox One, Switch

You had to have heard by now that gaming disorder has been included in the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of officially recognised illnesses. The decision so far seems to be a polarising one, so let's take a closer look at it.

Gaming disorder is now part of the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which will be in effect as of 2020.

ICD-11 says that this is a gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over the activity, prioritising gaming over other activities and continuing such behaviour in spite of seeing negative consequences.

"For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result 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", it reads.

The WHO claim that including gaming disorder is "based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions", but this is where many disagree.

Gaming trade groups from around the world have issued statements, protesting the , and while you could argue their opposition is solely revenue based, a group of prominent much earlier.

Their paper is titled 'A Weak Scientific Basis for Gaming Disorder: Let us err on the side of caution' and the name itself paints a good picture of what it's about. In short, they argued that we should establish with certainty that this is an addiction and a condition that can be clearly diagnosed.

Now, a condition that has to be monitored for 12 months before being accurately diagnosed is a bit scientifically suspect, because we're talking about broader behavioural patterns. 

As you'd expect - this opens dangerous doors, threatening to make any act of overindulging look like a potential addiction. When does managing our own gaming time stop becoming our own responsibility?

Microsoft Product photography of Sea of Thieves Xbox controller in purple and green. Xbox Controller, Sea of Thieves

We're not saying that gaming disorder is an impossible scenario, mind you. Heck, gambling is a gaming disorder - it ticks all the boxes.

However, it comes with actual stakes, which reveals gaming for what it is - a pleasant activity.

Now full disclosure - there are games worth taking a vacation for. Twice. That's how much we love playing games, and we'd do it even more if it wasn't for this pesky writing. Who wouldn't, right?

Nevertheless, a reasonable adult does not outsource responsibility for own time management. Not being able to resist a pleasant activity is something we're all guilty of from time to time. Doing it all day, every day is traditionally called being a child

2K Radiation Risk in Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. Watch out for aging Nuclear Plants.

Ultimately, if we're to accept gaming disorder as an actual illness, what's the next behaviour that will qualify as an addiction, ridding its performer of responsibility for their own actions?

We're opening dangerous doors to addictification of virtually every pastime, as there's no other way to justify the existence of gaming disorder.

Because, this is the thing with humans - we're built on networks of behaviours, which are reinforced when we find them pleasant in any shape or form.

In a sense, most of your character and behavioural patterns are sophisticated addictions. The longer we keep doing something, the harder it is to quit - just ask any smoker.

cc0 Roulette table, cc0 Roulette table

Gaming neither comes with the kind of stakes you find in gambling nor is it the sort of addiction that comes from inhaling or ingesting nicotine or food.

It is an activity that people manage, albeit some are better at it than others. Allowing people to use it as a scapegoat for own unwillingness or inability to come to terms with reality, is not only dishonest - it's dangerous. 

We're certain that groups of parents may be concerned over games, but managing time is something children learn at home, not at clinics.

Gaming disorder threatens to financially hit the entire gaming industry and once again vilify games, with scientifically shoddy reasoning that would be devoured in any semblance of a court.

And we'll be honest - the fact that the medical workers in the WHO would ever come to believe otherwise is definitely scarier than game addiction.

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