The World Health Organization is set to recognize addiction to video games as a mental health disorder, a new document has revealed. Like any other form of entertainment, video games are designed to keep players coming back for more. While this may not have caused too many problems back in the arcade era as, eventually, a player would simply run out of quarters, the rapid development of home consoles has kept a generation of kids and adults glued to their controllers. The more recent introduction of online multiplayer titles has arguably led to even more hours being spent gaming, with players building friendships and online communities across the world. Furthermore, mobile gaming has now ensured that the fun can be taken outside with apps such as Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Pokemon Go! proving endlessly moreish.
For the vast majority of gamers, of course, this doesn't develop into a genuine problem. Most console owners may have to suffer the odd disparaging comment from their significant other as they spend yet another hour mowing down zombies on Call Of Duty but generally speaking, most players know when to put the controller, phone or tablet down and return to the real world. For others, however, the lure of video games can become an issue, hindering other aspects of their life and leading to addictive behaviors similar to those with an addiction to gambling.
Because to this, the W.H.O. will seemingly be officially recognizing Gaming Disorder as a medical condition in the coming year. In the Beta Draft for its next International Classification of Diseases (via CNN), the organization listed "Gaming Disorder" alongside its gambling counterpart and a number of other addictions. The draft description included in the entry reads:
"Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe."
It is important to stress that since the document is only a draft at this stage, there's a fair chance that some alterations will be made to the wording of the description, the name of the condition or how doctors might diagnose Gaming Disorder. However, it does certainly seem as if the medical profession will be taking addiction to gaming as seriously as other forms of addictive behavior in the future - an action that may have been spurred on by the recent increase in DLC content and purchasable loot boxes which encourage players to spend real money after having already bought the game itself.
Some may see the W.H.O.'s new stance on gaming addiction as another example of "political correctness gone mad" and that spending an excessive amount of time playing video games is entirely down to the player's life choices, rather than any genuine medical condition.
However, it's worth considering that in the modern video game industry, publishers and developers put huge amounts of money and effort into keeping players hooked and handing over their hard-earned cash; it perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise that this sometimes leads to damaging patterns of behavior. Additionally, addiction can sometimes be a symptom of a deeper-rooted problem such as depression. Hopefully, the W.H.O.'s new stance on persistent gaming will lead to sufferers getting the help they require.