“Gaming Disorder” Presents A New Battle For Gamers

This piece was originally posted on KeenGamer.com on Dec 31st, 2017

As gamers, many a time we have been faced with the non gamer, naysayer. “Those things are rotting your brain”, we’ll hear them say. “Why don’t you go outside and do something with your life?”, all the while planning on going home and watching soaps on the television for the entire weekend. This decision by the World Health Organisation will likely be controversial only to we humble few. The gamers, who have spent a majority of their free time… well — doing what they enjoy.

As much as we may object to having another high profile complainer on our hands, the WHO does have a strong point. As more and more humans become gamers (even though some may not admit it), we see people becoming addicted to that little game on their phone. The endless allure of Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. It all counts among us console and PC gamers, and if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it can be perceived as a growing problem.

There are several points of discussion that I believe the WHO has either omitted in this decision or chosen to ignore completely. What age ranges can this “gaming disorder” be most liable as a problem? It is clear to see that kids are more susceptible to gaming’s charms. Can an adult not simply choose what they think is best for them without being told directly their choice is a good or bad thing? Like smoking, the adult gamers have more responsibilities in life yet manage to function as normal contributing members of society. Can enjoying a hobby on a nightly basis really be called addiction?

Dr. Chris Ferguson is a psychologist that studies the long term effects of gaming and, of all the experts out there, it seems he is more sympathetic to our cause. He is very wary of this decision made at the WHO — a decision that can lead to a worldwide recognition of a “problem”, leading to actionable prescriptions and yet another thing to be medicated for. Dr. Ferguson states clearly “I have considerable concerns about this proposed diagnosis…There are many myths such as that games involve dopamine and brain regions similar to substance abuse,” Ferguson said. “There’s a kernel of truth to that but only insofar as any pleasurable activity activates these regions. How gaming involves them is more similar to other fun activities like eating chocolate, having sex, getting a good grade, etc., not heroin or cocaine.”

But it can be seen that gaming can be taken too far. We’re all aware of the looming addiction caused by World of Warcraft in particular, should we start playing it. We all know about that one gamer, consigned to their mother’s basement, stuffing Doritos and energy drinks late into the night. We’re all at risk of becoming that person should the “right” game come along. Yet, in Dr. Ferguson’s words, “It doesn’t appear to be a stable construct”.

Indeed, in defence of this statement, I was once young and all I ever did was play videogames. I had no responsibilities and dinner was put in front of me every evening like clockwork — so I could. Yet as I grew older, there became less and less time for games. I would have been someone that the WHO absolutely would have diagnosed with “gaming disorder”. But, pardon me, I love to play videogames.

My love for them has not dwindled in the slightest, yet, having left the security of clockwork dinner, other things come first. It may be a sweeping statement to say so, but that is likely the case for 99% of gamers. That 1% that dies abruptly with a controller in their hand is unfortunately no different from those who die from vending machines falling on them or from drinking too much water.

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Nick Banks

Nick Banks

Here on my Medium account, you’ll find a few of my writing works that revolve around my gaming journalism from across the web.