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World Health Organization States Adverse Effects Of Gaming As Disorder

Updated on January 15, 2018
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Jennifer Branton is a nerd by trade most often writing about books and video games. She has a BA in Journalism from Lewis University

Can Gaming Be A Problem

As I write this, my husband is on the computer playing World of Warcraft, an Achievement Hunter video is streaming on the PlayStation and I have just plugged back in the Nintendo Switch for the day as I depleted the battery life down to nothing playing Super Mario Odyssey.

I live in a world where video games and their discussion is just part of daily life. I play them at least once a day, write about them, consume media about them.

In January the World Health Organization has announced that "Gaming Disorder" has joined the ranks of health conditions recognized stating "Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behavior," according to their website.

Where WHO states that the severity to where gaming actually puts a strain on doing daily activities and causes mental health issues, I fear non gamers will use this new classification to find fault in those that love indulging in a little RPG or first person shooter in the downtime.


The World Health Organization has recently adding "Gaming Disorder" to the ranks of mental health conditions it recognizes.

Too Much Time Plugged In

So what exactly would be the appropriate amount of time to devote to gaming? The World Health Organization doesn't state how much is "too much", leaving this open for interruption. Non gaming friends just don't understand the satisfying nature of downloading a new game to their system and investing a good sixty plus hours into a great game. Whereas I am not to the level of petty where my husband gets sometimes doing the same raids over a dozen times with his guild groups, or chasing down all the collectibles (depending on the game), or replaying a game on a higher difficulty to unlock all the possible endings from various save points (guilty); I would never classify the ten hours or so I could sink into a Sunday afternoon with the PlayStation controller in hand.

Non gamers don't get that unlike the platformers of our youth, simple two hour adventures are a thing of the past and you have to put in some serious game time to level up your characters enough to actually make it through. Its's extremely enjoyable.

I love the challenges and puzzles thrown my way and I'm getting in my socializing playing co-op.

To an outsider could the time that needs to be put into a serious game be considered getting in the way of doing other things?

No actual amount of time was stated for how much is too much time gaming.

What About The Streamers

Streaming video game sessions online from Youtube and Twitch is big business. The few friends that I have that stream their games for followers are nowhere close to what the big earners in the industry make on with their small tips, but a streamer that is good at entertaining and showing off their skills could report back a few hundred dollars or more each month of revenue.

Media companies have sprung up over the ability to talk about games and share game play with their fans and followers.

With The Entertainment Software Association reporting that over 150 Million American Households are engaging in video games on console or PC, including mobile phone games and other types of computer games.

Most gamers are also reported to be adult consumers, half of which are women, there doesn't seem to be any real danger of games interfering with daily life or causing ill effects. Adults blowing off steam on the weekends or after work with a little Call Of Duty is way more innocent than other habits.

Had the WHO spoke of adverse effects on children spending too much time in front of a game, maybe I could see arguments for not getting chores or homework done, but the average age of a gamer according to the ESA was around 35 years old...


Had we been talking about the adverse effects on children not getting their chores or homework done after spending too much time gaming, but the average age of a gamer is nearly 35 years old.

Are Loot Boxes And Paid Content Gambling

I have never been one for the "mobile games" on cell phones, but there is no argument that in some markets games for smart phones are actually becoming a bigger business that what is released for PC and consoles.

Phone games for some are highly addictive little game play sessions. To advance the lives or loot or whatever the game offers, paid content and loot boxes have been appearing in mobile games for some time now and creeping into more and more PC and console titles which leads some to compare the behavior to that of gambling. Gambling can be identified as an addictive behavior and if that gambling element is offered in video games, can this go back full circle to the claim from The World Health Organization that video gaming is a disorder when it takes up so much time in a gamers life?

Is offering loot for real world dollars an unfair advantage? Is this a lure to those already with gambling and addictive personality disorders? I personally think the whole thing is blown way out of proportion.

Again if the average gamer is an adult, let them make their own decisions on what to spend their money on. If one month we buy too many add ons, DLC's, and loot for our games then as an adult, I might be mad at myself when I overspent. End of story.

Should minors that are gaming be exposed to loot? This might be a good time for a parent to explain the values of how and what to spend your allowance on. It shouldn't be up to game developers to determine how people should be raising their kids.


Taking A Break

To be fair, most Nintendo games targeted to younger gamers do advise that you take a break from the action. Games marketed more to adults should probably also give a friendly reminder to adults but again with the benefits of being grown, I can wait until I really have to use the bathroom or need to refill my drink before running to the nearest bathroom during a cut scene.

Yes, there is plenty of times that I am so into what I am doing that it sucks up most of the day, but is that not the same thing that happens when people binge watch something on Netflix? Should streaming any sort of media now be a disorder as well?

I'm sure that there are plenty of cases where any sort of activity has gotten in the way of a person's life, but I find this adverse effects of gaming to be a stereotype for those that really don't understand how people get into video games and various parts of nerd culture.

To someone on the outside maybe the Sunday that I sunk into playing the Not A Hero and End of Zoe DLC for Resident Evil 7 seemed wastefully. Especially when I went back to the base game afterward as it is so short and polished it off on Normal in the later hours of the evening and Monday.

Those dozen or so hours in front of the TV playing one of my favorite zombie franchises makes me relax and forget about the terrible week at work or how much laundry I have to do.

I feel "Gaming Disorder" sounded great on paper for someone that couldn't understand the joy that millions of others find in a great title. Perhaps their thing instead is books or movies or something. Will we someday then hear about "Reading Disorder" or "Binge Watching Disorder" ?

Just like those old games of our youth, if you need a break, walk away for a few hours and do something else. There is enough adulting in our lives to find something else that can take the place for a few hours.

If you find yourself getting overly upset at a glitch or unfair boss, take a short break and do something else.

If you find yourself spending more money than you desire on loot boxes to power up faster, take a short break and hide the credit card.

Gaming is a wonderful form of media used to convey great stories, adventure, puzzles, and social interaction and communication in co-ops. The amount of media itself writing about games, streaming on Youtube and Twitch, and conventions is an great outlet for a community that cares about these stories.

There may be people out there that let their favorite hobby get in the way of the rest of their life, but don't lump all of us who enjoy our video games in the same lot either.


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