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Gaming Disorder, Really?

This writer would like to start with his own troubles with mental illness. Not too long ago one was dealing with a build-up of terrible thoughts about ending my life, struggling to face the simplest of tasks and finding life a struggle in general. All of this eventually came to a head and one became seriously ill for about two months, this writer completely broke down. After being open about the situation, making my network of support and getting a correct diagnosis of Anxiety with the relevant medication, I started to rebuild myself.

This writer would classify himself a gamer from a very early age, about 6 or 7. Gaming is full of brilliant memories of LAN parties, tournaments, sleep overs, marathons and big gaming events. As one got older this went hand in hand with partying and inspiring my artwork and musical ability. As my mental instability developed throughout my 20’s, gaming began to take on a soothing role for me. Post Gaming sessions I was relaxed, vented and ready to take on life’s challenges.

world

“W.H.O. The organisation behind the classification”

Tell it How it is Reggie

This writers’ anxiety came from a number of passing’s and negative life experiences I never dealt with, just blocked out. Once one finally decided to face them all, I had just started to write about games and the industry. It was playing, reviewing and publishing my work that got me though one of the darkest times in my life. It gave me focus and something to work towards, not knowing if it would go anywhere at that point.

Why has this games reviewer just told his readers his life story? Quite simply because my mental health issues were in no way shape or form linked to gaming. But society would class me as a massive nerd/gamer for 2/3 of my life. So does that mean that cases such as these should be scapegoated to the most obvious choice, or should we look a little deeper for the real issue?

Addiction to media in general has been a concern for various movements and countries across the world for as long as history dates. 2500 years in fact going back to ancient Greece. But what proof is there? One decided to have a brief look over studies made within gaming addiction to find out more.

newspaper

“As opposed to brothers falling out over toys or a game of football?”

Opposing Doctors

The first article I came across was a Psychology Today piece by a William R. Klemm Ph.D. Straight off the Bat, Bill dives straight into the negative impact of violent video games amongst minors and the amount of time spent staring at the TV. Bill then goes into facts pulled out of the air which are backed up by referencing the existence of a gaming detox clinic aptly named ‘Re-START’. Right at the end, one sentence states that non-violent video games can improve mental quickness and other cognitive skills. The article comes complete with a 3 references.

Throughout this article, The Senior Professor of neuroscience boils down gaming addiction to adolescent skinny boys with no self-confidence. The article also places a lot of blame on online gaming. Whilst trying my best to stay unbiased and to gather an understanding of this narrow-minded view point, one made a bullet point of points Bill might have overlooked:

  • What parental styles are on display with these young men?
  • Do any of these chaps suffer from mental illness in general?
  • Were results compared to the populations confirmed who watch hours of TV?
  • Where are the social benefits of online gaming such as clan meets, LAN parties and other gaming events?
  • Was a link between lack of social activity and escapism explored?
  • Were said kids aware of social events that might meet their interests?
  • Has Bill ever played a Video Game?
  • Did Bill wish to punch someone after a good session on Street fighter?

Straight away the cultural bias is rife within professional bodies trying to discover the reasons and validity of gaming addiction. Not once was it mentioned that by merely Stigmatizing these kids as Gamers could be the path to the issue. Like most things in the world, if someone doesn’t understand something they fear it. Whilst one respects the background of Bill, Bill doesn’t actually bring up one valid point during this article.

old school

“About the same logic Dr. Bill”

A More Sensible Approach

Then I found another article, again on Psychology today by a Peter Gray P.h.D. which takes an opposing approach to gaming. Dr. Gray wastes no time getting knee deep in the subject of scare mongering throughout the media of the effects on gaming on young kids. He rationalises tabloid headlines of “Gamers brains Look the same as Heroin Users” by explaining that anything pleasurable produces dopamine in the brain. This is activated by certain pathways, some of these pathways are also used whilst taking Heroin. This one fact has no grounds to suggest that gaming can damage the brain, but instead explains that humans find gaming enjoyable and fun.

In fact, dopamine levels are elevated to the same heights of enjoying a Peperoni Pizza. Opiates such as Heroin times the resting level of dopamine up to ten times its normal level.  Dr. Gray then moves on to state that certain genres and actions in games exercise certain parts of the brain. Repeat stimulation can only lead to growth in those areas according to neuroscientist Marc Palaus and his colleagues.

Rather than write about it, one would just like to give his readers the last paragraph in this article. It’s a cracker:

“The question of whether or not the term “addiction” is useful at all, in relation to anyone’s video gaming, is very much debated by the experts. Currently, the American Psychiatric Association is considering the addition of “Internet Gaming Disorder” (their term for video gaming addiction) into their diagnostic manual.  Research shows that the great majority of video gamers, including those who are heavily immersed in games and spend large amounts of time at them, are at least as healthy psychologically, socially, and physically as are non-gamers.  In fact, in my next post I’ll describe evidence indicating that, on average, they are healthier than non-gamers in all of these respects. But the same research shows that some small percentage of gamers are suffering psychologically in ways that at least are not helped by gaming and maybe are worsened.  That’s the finding that leads the American Psychiatric Association to propose the addition of Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) to their official manual of disorders.”

seratine

“oh the Dad Jokes!”

 

Mental Health in Gaming

Moving on from the whole disorder argument, let’s take a look at how mental illness is represented in gaming today. Here are some titles that portray a great understanding of mental illness, one’s hope is that these games educate the masses a little on the subject:

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade

Ninja Theories’ masterpiece illustrates what it is like to live with Psychosis via a fictional storyline. Before Hellblade, psychosis was mainly a cop out motivator for villains instead of exploring their drive a little more. Senuas quest is to bring her dead lover back from the dead via the gates of hell. The player’s environments, obstacles, challenges and enemies are all a product of Senuas Psychosis. This writer can without a doubt Hellblade educated him on the subject.

That Dragon, Cancer.

cancer

This game received a lot of press at the time of release and performed surprisingly well for an Indie title. That Dragon, Cancer follows two parents coping with a terminal diagnosis of their 12-month old son with the horrible disease. It also covers the wealth of anxiety and depression the couple had to go through and cope with.

The Positives

Often, gaming can provide a medium to tackle such horrific and complex issues. Although extreme examples, gamers worldwide are aware of mental illness and are more open than most about talking about it via various platforms and blogs. To close the article, this writer would like to end with a video.

One thinks that this summarises gamers all over the world. We aren’t a quiet and reclusive bunch who just talk to our devices. We are passionate, creative, approachable and competitive. Please readers, don’t ever judge a book by its cover, lets always try to look below the surface before we make such bold claims.

**Please note the following video may contain strong language, it’s an announcement reaction montage after all! **

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