Just a few short hours a go, it was announced by the World Health Organization that as of January 1st, 2020 gaming will be recognized a “disorder”. As the announcement points out, this refers to the “excessive use of video games that would make people avoid their professional obligations and personal relationships”. Or, in layman’s terms, when you game so hard that you block out everything else.
Of course, as a gamer (although more of a “casual”), I find it extremely difficult to understand the logic behind this. People need to be able to take responsibility for their own actions. And (unless someone is already suffering from some type of disease, like epilepsy), gaming, unlike drugs or alcohol, is not something that can endanger a life. So it really is nobody’s business how long a person wants to game. It’s not like if you play a game 8 hours straight and then get behind a steering wheel, you’ll be a threat to someone else.
This feels like another “boogeyman” situation, where people constantly need to be told by someone who’s in a more “official” position how much fun it’s okay for them to have. “You can only drink this much”, “you shouldn’t do drugs”, “don’t eat meat or carbs or gluten”, “try to exercise”, etc. Yet more often than not, this only seems to have a reverse effect. A percentage of the population sees this as a method of control through fear or attempt at manipulation and usually responds by doing the opposite or completely ignoring it.
Yet, contrary to all other examples, gaming, as mentioned earlier, really doesn’t have any dangerous influences to a person’s life. So this truly looks like someone is coming in and telling you “okay, you can play, but only for so long”. Which begs the question: what if people don’t want to have a social life? What if they can afford to not go to work and just stay home and play video games literally all day long? On what basis does the WHO come out and baptize them as “disorderly”?
And if they do decide to officially go down this path, are they truly willing to accept the ramifications? For example, should someone be medically recognized as a “gaming addict” (it’s really difficult to type that in without laughing), will they receive medical attention? Rehabilitation? Will doctors receive special training in order to be able to treat it? Will it be specialized depending on the genre of games the patient is addicted to? Will they receive benefits up until they are officially ‘cured’ of their ‘illness’? If someone is diagnosed with a “gaming addiction”, will they be able to take paid leave off work in order to seek medical treatment? These are all questions that will need to be answered eventually, if we are to officially recognize gaming as an “addiction”.
See, you can’t just randomly throw a word out there and then just try and sugarcoat it. That’s the thing. With this decision, the WHO has now officially declared “hunting season” for a wide net of people who were already waiting at the corner to go full force on ostracizing the industry. At the same time, gaming offers various incredible (and quite often, educational) experiences to millions of others around the world, actually helping them get through some of the most difficult situations of their lives. Does it make them a bit more secluded and isolated? Perhaps, but gaming also has some of the biggest, most vocal and most active communities you will ever find (the annual E3 show that begins in a couple of weeks is the best example of this.)
Most of these people might buy a new game that they’ve been expecting to come out for a good 4–5 years and then spend over 10 hours a day playing it. They might be gone for weeks. Does that make them “addicts”? No. And even if the WHO’s report doesn’t center around those people, it has now made it “okay” for them to come under scrutiny or for parents to become unnecessarily worried if they see their child demonstrate a siilar behavior.
Even if someone spends most of their time play COD, WOW, Fortnite, or whatever the latest fashion in gaming is, who gave the right to the WHO to call them out as “addicts”? So they don’t want to deal with the real world and they like to isolate themselves. That’s their own personal issue. And nobody should get a say in it. Opening up a Pandora’s Box like this can only lead to more trouble between the gaming community and the health industry. And right now, nobody needs another turf war.
It’s just completely absurd that with all the issues going on in the world today (hundreds of thousands of drug and alcohol addicts the world over, poverty, climate crisis, gambling addiction -a real addiction by the way-, illness and so on), this is what the WHO choose to focus on. Deciding on if your great aunt calls you and you tell her that you’re too busy to see her because you’d rather spend your weekend playing video games, that somehow makes you an “addict”. Give me a break…