Every baby boomer who thinks there might be something wrong with their child for enjoying video games just got a slice of vindication today, with the World Health Organisation deeming 'Gaming Disorder' a new and unique form of illness.
The criteria to be diagnosed with gaming disorder is now follows: "a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."
Those into Gaming may remember similar headlines hit tech outlets this time last year, after the WHO classified gaming disorder under its section of potentially harmful technology-related behaviours, warning that "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," or basically, a really bad addiction, was something to be wary of.
Now though, it's gone one step further, updating its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to include gaming disorder in its list of Modern Diseases.
However, a number of experts in the field have warned that the research this is based is shaky, to say the least.
Of course, this isn't an attempt to say that the rising problem of technology abuse isn't an issue. I'm sure we'd all like to see people of all ages spend a little less time on their screens. Heck, even, the tech-world has, with the likes of Google and Apple introducing tech that helps people monitor and control the amount of time they spend glued to digital devices. However, the problem of gaming is a unique one, and while some are already checking themselves in for gaming addiction treatment, some experts think that the process of defining what's now known as Gaming Disorder is based on flimsy research.
Most of the criteria for defining a mental disorder in psychology is set out in what's known as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) something that, in and of itself, is coming under increasing fire for its extremely 'by-the-numbers' approach to identifying different instances of mental illness. Even so, it's the best tool that modern psychologists currently have, and those who helped develop it seem to think that the WHO have gone about the process of defining the disorder in the wrong way.
And while general consensus is that there should probably be a framework for diagnosing people, particularly kids, with an unhealthy relationship to gaming, many think that in looking to make an example of humankind's increasing dependence on technology, the WHO has set out the definitions for a problem that seems worse than it actually is.
The WHO believes that approximately 2-3 percent of gamers would fit into the ICD-11 (the International Classification of Diseases) new definition of gaming disorder. However, this is in direct contradiction with other researchers who are starting to figure out a comprehensive framework to properly diagnose gaming addiction. According to a study based on the DSM's provisional framework for diagnosing Gaming Disorder, the figure of gamers affected may actually be less than 1 pecent. A report published in Journal of Media Psychologyhas also shown that many studies based around Technology and Human Behavior are based on empirical evidence that's shoddy at best.
Ultimately, there are gamers out there that, despite playing games for an above-average amount of hours per week while still leading socially active lives, this writer included. However, they may still fall into the boundaries of Gaming Disorder without their relationship to gaming being properly analysed, making the chance of overdiagnosis much higher than it should be.
"The rush to pathologise a behaviour that might otherwise be healthy – it's risky," said Lennart Nacke, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Games Group at the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute. "If, in identifying that one person in a hundred with a serious gaming disorder, you misdiagnose 10 others, that's a serious problem."
"After you come up with diagnostic criteria, then you can come up with tests," said University of Connecticut psychologist Nancy Petry, who actually worked on a subcommittee to see whether or not Internet Gaming Disorder was worthy of inclusion in the DSM. "But in the field of gaming addiction research, we're going about everything backwards. Most of the scales we use aren't good scales to begin with, and they provide no cutoff point for diagnosis."
"I don't want there to be people classified with a mental disorder when they don't really have one," said Petry.