WHO plans to make obsessive video game playing a mental health disorder in 2018.
“There were definitely some days where it was like ‘OK, I’m definitely not playing games for a few days now.'”
As the manager of a gaming store, Jean-Paul Pittet knows how addictive gaming can be.
“Oh geez, there would have been days where I was playing eight or ten hours on a bad day.”
Pittet laughed at his former self.
Although he doesn’t have as much time to play as he did in the past, he understands how players can become trapped in a virtual world.
“It is an escape from reality,” Pittet explained. “I guess for some people that’s probably what creates the addiction; the escape from the humdrum, boring, everyday life.”
It’s a phenomenon WHO says we should recognize as a mental health issue. They’ve even given it a name: Gaming Disorder.
According to University of Regina media and technologies professor Alec Couros, it manifests itself in a number of ways.
“You have lost control of the duration: how long you play, how often you play. That’s the first consideration.”
Couros paused, emphasizing what was next.
“The second is it’s actually interfering with things you would rather do,” he continued. “You should be studying, you should be working, and you should be doing other things.”
It’s a pattern Pittet has seen many times.
“It can consume you,” Pittet began as he described a common situation. “I’ve seen some people get to the point where I say ‘We’re going out on Friday, do you want to come?’ They reply, ‘No I can’t I’ve got a raid I’m taking part in and I’ve got to be home all night.’”
The World Health Organization’s classification is something Pittet, and Couros believe to be a step in the right direction. By acknowledging this disorder, treatments can be developed.
“That’s one of the great parts of actually labelling this,” an animated Couros explained. “It actually says this is a real thing. It’s not a flippant categorization, there’s actually some science behind this.”
Couros believes it will be a long time before the stigma surrounding the disorder fades, but recognizing the problem is the first step.