Official Partner The Royal Society of Medicine


Video Gaming Disorder

Countless parents have tutted and rolled their eyes at young people and their fascination with television. Whether it’s imploring children to get outside and play in the sunshine for a while, or demanding they move back a few feet from the screen lest they end up with square eyes, the pull of the screen is undeniable. It is not just isolated to children though, adults are also susceptible.

A Good Thing

Naturally, the dawn of the video game industry has further changed the situation, in terms of too much time sitting in front of a screen. A fixture of many households since the early 1980s, video games are growing more sophisticated by the day. If you haven’t kept up with the advances in the technology, banish any images of wholesome classics such as Space Invaders or Pong from your mind. The modern video game industry is serving up hugely immersive, story-rich experiences that rival Hollywood movie productions in terms of popularity, profit and prestige.

Dedicated gamers will insist that this is a good thing. There have long been claims from professional bodies that playing games provide a fast track to improved mental faculties, while others will point to suggestions of enhanced hand-eye coordination. Of course, there will be an equal number of naysayers to claim that wreaking havoc on the digital streets of Grand Theft Auto does significantly more harm than good to a civilised society.

A 21st Century Disease

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between; while there are surely positive traits to be gleaned from playing video games, there is always the potential to enjoy too much of a good thing.

The World Health Organization certainly agrees with this, having acknowledged Video Gaming Disorder in its 11th amendment to the International Classification of Diseases. The definition of Video Gaming Disorder is simple; it essentially amounts to an addiction, with an individual spending more time plugged into the digital realm than engaging with the world outside and failing to fulfil commitments and obligations expected of them in favour of jousting with a joystick.

For the avoidance of doubt, that doesn’t mean that a group of young lads opting to play cyber-soccer on their PlayStation rather than kicking a ball outside should be diagnosed as suffering from the condition. That’s just life in the 21st Century. A successful diagnosis will revolve around significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

All the same, WHO has acknowledged the disorder for a reason; it is possible to grow addicted to video gaming. This is something that people concerned about their gaming loved ones should keep an eye on – if time spent online leads to personality changes, reluctance to engage and a tendency to reject everyday and essential tasks, such as work and socialisation, it may be worth seeking the opinion of a healthcare professional. People play for a reason, usually to escape the reality of their life in some way. With the rise of the Internet ensuring that games can be played online with strangers from across the world, some people may find that they prefer the fantasy of their online life to the mundane reality – after all, unlike real life, video games can be paused, restarted and skipped according to our mood.

Addicted or Just Addictive?

However, there is no need to panic unecessarily as far as Video Gaming Disorder is concerned. Just like somebody that enjoys a glass of wine with dinner is not necessarily at risk of becoming an alcoholic, relaxing and unwinding by playing video games does not ensure that somebody is likely to develop an addiction. In the case of children, all that is needed is close monitoring and control over how long you allow them to be engrossed in what could be called anti-social behaviour.

While people that engage in this hobby may toss around words like ‘addictive’ and appear to disappear into a rabbit hole for hours at a time, in many respects gaming is no different to the, “just one more episode” appeal of a TV box set. Very few people end up diagnosed with Video Gaming Disorder, and for the most part this is simply a way to pass the time. If you have any concerns about yourself or somebody close to you, place limits on your screen time and enjoy video gaming in moderation.


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