Is it right for the WHO to class excessive gaming as a disorder?
By Joe Harker
The World Health Organisation (just in case you thought the WHO was a reference to the band) have classified excessive video game playing as a disorder, saying that a pattern of behaviour for more than 12 months would fit the classification.
They define the disorder as: "A pattern of gaming behaviour 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."
If that sounds like substance abuse then you would not be the only one to make such a connection. Jeffrey L Derevensky of the WHO believes the disorder should be taken seriously as he has seen many statements from parents who believe their child is playing video games so much that it has a negative impact on their academic and social life. He insists that most gamers have absolutely no problem and treat gaming as another form of entertainment, but that is not the case for a number of people.
Others believe this is a recurrence of "moral panic" that gaming has been hit with since the 1980s. New forms of entertainment often have to go through being blamed as the root of all evil. Television, films and books were all held up as foul things leading people astray at various points and video games are just the latest in a long line.
The announcement was met with a backlash on social media, which is perhaps the next thing to be blamed for the ills of society. Plenty of gamers were unhappy with the WHO's decision with some feeling criticised for enjoying a form of entertainment and others wondering whether it would undermine other health conditions.
Academics have also been split over the WHO decision, with some saying the decision was made over studies that had "a clear lack of consensus" from doctors and scientists. Others such as Professor Andrew Przybylski of the University of Oxford agreed with the WHO, but thought there was a lack of evidence to back up the argument behind gaming disorder. He said: "The argument that games are addictive is not really more compelling than the argument that taking selfies or playing golf is addictive.
"The evidence isn't really there yet."
The WHO is unlikely to try and paint the vast majority of gamers as addicted or suffering from a disorder and may instead be trying to help the select few who really do have a problem and suffer for it. There have been some horror stories of people who have died because they kept playing and neglected to look after themselves, but the WHO may be trying to help people who have retreated from social life and have games as their only method of escape from the world.