How often do you play video games? Can you ever have too much of a good thing? How much gaming is too much? It’s one of those debates we’ve all had with ourselves at one point or another. As gaming has become more prevalent in a person’s everyday life, for even casual gamers, those educated in the mental health field have taken notice. Negative behaviours stemming from gaming, that were once just brushed off as nothing more than just having too much time on your hands, have now caught the attention of The World Health Organization (WHO) and have labelled the mental health issue as Gaming Disorder.
WHO have listed ‘gaming disorder’ in their recent draft of the 2018 International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which was last updated 27 years ago in 1990. While the completed version of the diagnostic manual won’t be published until later in the year, it states that gaming disorder is “characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (ie. Over the internet) or offline”.
If this becomes the case, and gaming disorder becomes an official diagnosable illness, then those in the medical field, as well as insurance companies concerning health, will certainly find themselves in some rather uncharted territory.Whilst it can be rather easy to become engrossed in video games, this doesn’t mean that everyone who enjoys video games has a mental disorder. Within the draft WHO has included a series of criteria to help identify a person suffering from gaming disorder, these include:
- Impaired control over gaming, for example onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination.
- Increasing priority given to gaming, to the extent that gaming takes priority over other interests and daily activities.
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
It also goes on to say that obsessive gaming may actually be severe enough to have significant negative effects on “personal, family, social, educational, and occupational” relationships or other key areas of a person’s life. However, the pattern of gaming does not need to be continuous to be defined as gaming disorder. It may also be seen in reoccurring episodes, but require documentation of the habit over a 12 month period to be accurately diagnosed.
According to Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, it was important to recognise gaming disorder as a genuine mental health risk, even stating “Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects.”
So it would appear that part of what causes gaming disorder comes down to a person’s personal use and their ability to limit their gaming time and exposure. People game for all sorts of reasons, be it boredom, escapism, or simply to socialise with other like-minded people. The problem arises, however, when gaming starts to negatively impact on other aspects of your life and starts skirting dangerous territories of addiction. Now thanks to the highly prolific subject of lootboxes and gambling in gaming, that addiction concern has taken centre stage and will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
As an avid gamer and reviewer, the next few years will be quite interesting in relation to gaming disorder, addiction, and mental health. At what point do we need to look inward and ask ourselves are we gaming too much? Is one of our favourite pastimes actually a ticking time bomb, or does this only affect those already vulnerable and susceptible to addictive behaviours? Only time will tell, but rest assured the crew here at Checkpoint will be there when the full draft is released this year.