Video game addiction is not a fresh concept. Before people spent hours playing Candy Crush on their smartphones, Pac-Man was a popular arcade game that people would play for quarters. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been keeping a close eye on those whose gaming obsession has negatively influenced their lives, given how commonplace video games are in our lives.
The WHO addressed this addiction for the first time in January 2018 in a disease known as “gaming disorder,” which was included in a draft of their new International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The WHO formally decided to update the ICD in May 2019 and add gaming disorder as a behavioral addiction in a section containing other addictive behaviors like substance misuse and gambling. ICD-11, their updated manual, becomes effective in January 2022.
This article explains gaming disorders and offers advice on whether someone is becoming overly dependent on video games.
The Harms of Video Game Disorder
According to Dr. Lee, the true problem is how gaming affects a person’s life. “This is true for almost any behavior or habit. Labeling an activity as an illness isn’t justified if it benefits you and doesn’t harm others. However, the ICD-11 makes it very clear that it negatively affects a person’s life.
Identifying the Issue: What Signs and Symptoms Point to a Gaming Disorder?
According to the WHO, a person with a gaming disorder will engage in the following behaviors:
commencement, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, and context of impaired control over the game
increasing the amount of time spent gaming to the point when it eclipses other interests and daily activities
Continued or increased gaming, notwithstanding the emergence of unfavorable effects
Translation: Real-Life Symptoms of Gaming Disorder
In other words, according to Lee, “number one, gaming controls you without you controlling it. The second reason is that it keeps you from doing other things you ought to be doing. The third is that you continue to act in this way even when you are aware of the harm it is doing to your life or others are aware of it. Finally, unless there is an emergency, it should occur over 12 months. Everyone can become engrossed in anything for a little time, and you shouldn’t automatically label anything as a disorder just because a person engages in it frequently. Most of the time, people can say, “I no longer want to do this,” but if it persists for longer than a year, you should start to worry.
Identification of a Gaming Disorder and Who Is Affected by It
The ICD-11, according to Lee, “is what the WHO uses to determine if something will be a condition or not, and give it some description.” According to different specialists, “as a result of the classification, more types of diagnostic screening will be determined in terms of more specifics.”
Addiction to video games: Do You Need Help?
To apply some of the known signs of addiction to gaming, Lee says, “what we can do now is rely on some of those things.” “I’ve highlighted the CAGE questions, typically used to assess alcohol use. Although they aren’t entirely reliable, they are a decent approach to determining whether someone could need assistance.
- Do you sense the need to reduce (C)?
- Do you find it annoying (A) when gamers criticize your play?
- Do you ever feel horrible or guilty about playing video games?
- Are video games typically the first thing that comes to mind when you wake up in the morning—your eye-opener?
There are additional symptoms in addition to these general indications of addiction. Ever since you started developing this habit, has your mood changed negatively? Are you noticing a decline in social interactions — losing touch with friends and family? Is your work or school performance starting to decrease for no apparent reason?
Why Gaming Disorder Is a Problem Now: Game Changers
Parents have viewed children who play video games too frequently for their tastes as being “addicted” to games for almost as long as video games have been a part of our culture (nearly five decades). Why did the WHO decide now was the right time to make gaming disorder a better-recognized condition?
When people identify something, “many times it’s not like it just appeared one year,” Lee claims. “Things often have a long history of existence. It becomes a procedure when anything getting more attention is formally acknowledged. People spent hours playing Pac-Man in arcades in the 1980s, and when Atari launched, people became addicted to it. Therefore, several factors likely contributed to the recognition.
Everyone can participate because there is a critical mass. Some people played video games when they first came out, but not everyone did. Due to that group’s expansion, many more people are playing video games. There isn’t some magical number that someone must reach before they can declare something to be a problem or an issue. But it seems more people are playing them now than in previous decades. As a result, you hear more accounts of people struggling in school, losing their jobs, and ending their relationships.
More people are playing professionally. Many people have expressed a desire to make living playing video games. That might have existed in the past, but not to this extent. Not that everyone with that goal has a mental illness, but more individuals are committing their life to it.
Gaming is challenging. More and more parts of the games are attracting players’ attention on a deeper level as they get more complex. Many of these games have the potential to be more engaging; you can converse with other players and feel a sense of belonging. These things may be advantageous, but they keep players hooked on a game longer. The game’s charms get stronger as technology develops.
Obesity and related factors like sedentary behavior have also grown to be serious issues. Although video games are not the main factor in these problems, such as obesity, they play a part and should be discussed.
Playing digital games causes reality to become hazy.
Games have always become addictive, but the way we play them today has fundamentally altered, making it sometimes harder to put them down. Technology has undoubtedly improved to make gaming more accessible, according to Lee. “Initially, there were restrictions because you had to go to an arcade to play, and you returned home after the arcade closed. Back then, you owned an Atari set, but it was segmented. To make that decision, you had to open up this device that was made to play video games. Now, things are a lot more intertwined, and you may use your smartphone in several different places.
Additionally, we are using computers more frequently now, spend a lot more time in front of screens, and things are now better integrated. The question on the minds of game developers is, “How can I make it easy for you to play?”
Modern Games’ Graphics, Interactive Features, and Social Networking Elements
Now, video games are getting more interactive. The game can speak with you and say, “Hey! Come back now; let’s play the game! This occurs when you are connected to Facebook, instant messaging, or other social media. The lines between them start to blur. Instead of being a game, you turn it off, giving the impression that someone is present and wants to talk. The visuals keep improving, and the figures appear more and more genuine thanks to virtual reality. These lines are becoming increasingly hazy as characters start to become more realistic.