WHO designation of 'gaming disorder' rankles local gamers
Published Wednesday, April 11, 2018 4:36PM EDT
Growing up in Kitchener, Brody Moore played hockey. He liked the competitive rush.
As he moved into his teens, he realized that he was increasingly being drawn away from the ice by the equally enthralling world of video gaming.
“I found games can give you that same mental push,” he says.
Moore started uploading videos of his gaming exploits to YouTube. Then he started running tournaments. More recently, he’s moved into the world of professional e-sports commentary, making a living while broadcasting Rocket League matches and hosting a daily gaming show.
When Rocket League was first released, it quickly became a big part of Moore’s life. He says he spent long periods of time playing the game.
“I played it a lot … but it never really affected any of my personal relationships,” he says.
Moore says his gaming fixation has never reached the level of a clinical addiction, and he doesn’t know anyone else who would fit that category either. The World Health Organization sees things differently.
The global health authority announced last week that it plans to classify video game addiction as a recognized disease. It defines “gaming disorder” as behaviour “characterized by 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.”
According to the WHO, a diagnosis of gaming disorder would require a person to have shown “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
The WHO’s announcement has attracted criticism from a number of people within and outside of the gaming world – criticism that, according to one local gaming expert, seems warranted.
“It’s premature to classify gaming as a disorder based on the evidence that we have,” says Lennart Nacke, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford-based Games Institute.
Nacke characterizes the existing research on the issue of gaming and addictions as “highly speculative in some areas” and often based on small sample sizes.
“We just don’t have enough (studies completed) in that field,” he says.
“We absolutely need better studies, more studies, more clinical studies on video games.”
According to Nacke, current research makes it difficult to distinguish between gaming having intrinsically addictive qualities and it being addictive in the way any activity can be addictive.
“Overdoing an activity is problematic – but that’s any activity. That’s not just video games,” he says.
“Why do we need to single out games in this particular case?”
Nacke says he worries the classification of gaming disorder will lead to gamers being misdiagnosed with it. He’s also concerned gamers may be classified as being addicted to games when they’re actually addicted to gambling components within games.
From the gamer’s perspective, Moore has many of the same questions.
“I think it’s very possible to get addicted to anything,” he said.
“I think it’s just very weird that it has its own classification.”
A 2016 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health estimated that 13 per cent of Ontario students have experienced symptoms of a “video gaming problem.”
With reporting by Daryl Morris and files from The Canadian Press