Random Battles: Gaming Addiction vs Fantasy Affliction

Let me start by being a tad reductive here. I have a view on this subject; Gaming Addiction is fiction. Allow me to elaborate.

Addiction is defined not, by habitually and excessively partaking in an activity, it’s defined by the activity having increased priority over life interests and daily activities. You know, eating, sleeping, speaking to your family etc. Habits become addictions when they stop being pleasurable and become a necessity. Now it’s clear, when referring to Gaming Addiction, now classified as a disorder, the WHO’s definition isn’t breaking away from the grounded facts of addiction. However, there’s more to it.


WHO? What?

Turn to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), chapter 6 section 13 of the WHO’s list of very specifically defined Impulse control disorders. This section contains Substance-induced impulse control disorders, Gambling disorder, Secondary impulse control syndrome, Body-focused repetitive behaviour disorders and… Gaming disorder. Doesn’t that sound a little out of sorts for something with no large-scale studies or, more pertinently, no firm agreement of its existence within the professional community itself.

It is vital that the destructive and debilitating reality of behavioural addiction is acknowledged, including the acceptance that there are overlapping categories of mental illnesses, but here’s the thing: how many actual cases can be comfortably described solely as ‘gaming disorder’? No really, you may scoff at my ramblings and largely anecdotal views on something I’m not really qualified to talk about, but isn’t it usual that the WHO has only two specific sub-categories under their ‘Disorders due to addictive behaviours’ heading? Gambling and Gaming.


Gambling / Drinking / Gaming…

There’s an immediate issue in drawing comparison between gambling and gaming, though. It’s scope, severity and consequence.

There are other areas in great need of study, which, despite decades of groundwork to expand on, demand more attention but receive less. Compulsory spending studies are gradually revealing the huge social cost of the problem. Evidence suggests up to 5% of the entire population are at risk, showing there are measured and severe social consequences. Yet society will say you can’t pull an all-nighter on Fortnite, but you can line up from Christmas Day until Boxing Day outside Selfridges in order to line your arms with discount designer handbags – that’s OK. Maxing out your credit card so everything including your socks smells like Sauvage by Dior? That’s healthy.

This example is very real but doesn’t fit into a nice, neat category for your newly built clinic and it won’t create cohesive, definitely factual, study-based articles for panicked Daily Mail-reading parents and their offspring (potential patients). There won’t be a convenient media hype-train to hop aboard while procuring funds because people like their shoes.


The Blame Game

Now that gaming has been categorised, out come the Addiction Clinics with their freshly updated list of services. Gaming addiction placed above eating disorders (they are all over this), specialist courses for teens with gaming disorder (which also gives neglectful parents an excellent excuse to blame something else for their lack of responsibility or ability to recognise a greater need). Throwing money at a ‘specialised’ addiction clinic won’t stop Overwatch being fun and it won’t turn your kid into, well-mannered, all-round achiever, Hermione Granger.

Picture this; your drunken father comes home one night, pees on the curtains, throws up on the coffee table, leaves his shoe in the fridge. He’s pissed. He needs help.

Your gaming obsessed wife comes downstairs, pees on the curtains, throws up on the coffee table, leaves her shoe in the fridge. She needs a different kind of help.

Scaremongering is the mainstream media’s favourite meal and, my word; the WHO have offered up a feast. The resulting excrement is devoured by anyone who doesn’t have the time, or drive, to look it up the topic in any detail.


Spare me the Hyperbole, you Part-Time Keyboard Warrior

Fine, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that a small handful of out of touch professionals decided they’d set out to open or adapt their own clinic by first convincing the WHO that gaming can be bad for you, then applying for funding and finally ‘raising awareness’, largely to capitalise (you’re welcome to do your own research on this because, honestly Reggie can’t afford the libel). This funding could be used to better treat the underlying conditions people are suffering with when addicted to video games.

Funding for any healthcare is finite; there’s no additional funding for a new category of addiction. By adding resource to one area, you must remove from another. I would expect them to treat addiction, as only they can, utilising the decades of amazing studies and progress to draw from. Instead they use completely untested categories to enable them to tick a box on behalf of someone with potentially serious mental health problems. Spend the money on large-scale studies, instead, if you must!

It was hyperbole when I said gaming addiction was fiction but, in it’s current WHO form, sitting right next to gambling addiction, it’s a farce of a label, which draws a risk of masking more serious mental health issues. They have a responsibility to the public and, most importantly, those who suffer with mental health conditions, to lose the agenda.

I’m not suggesting you can’t get addicted to gaming, there are plenty of people who are genuinely addicted to games, but it’s not an epidemic, it shouldn’t be a headline (shhhhh, ignore the irony) and it certainly should not be used to mask mental health issues or decrease funding for what we know to be serious, debilitating, established problems. The WHO’s classification does nothing but push the false narrative that gaming is bad for you. The public don’t like gaming (even though they do), it’s naughty.

If you’ve read my previous feature on society’s perception of gaming as deviant culture, you’ll know I aim to paint a brighter picture of what gaming can mean to people.

Gaming is the symptom, there’s no evidence it’s the cause.



  1. It’s interesting that you compare “gaming addictions” to other more acceptable addictions. There is no TV-watching disorder, or book reading disorder. These are considered healthy (or at least not unhealthy) things to do all the time

    I think there’s a lot to say for being being reactionary to the news that gaming addiction is being reconnaissance as a thing and then leaping onto the internet to defend their favourite hobby. Addiction to video games is likely a problem to some people and those people need help. However, there are far more serious addictions that need the funding than this. And, as you point out, a lot of people will use this as an excuse for less than adequate parenting when their child refuses to go to school so they can play Fortnite for another 8 hours straight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree – there’s no question that people can be addicted to gaming, the point here is that the addiction/mental health issue itself needs treating and analysing, tailored for the individual. If removing gaming for that person helps them, so be it! It doesn’t mean gaming is a problem. As alluded to above – symptom, not the cause.

      I would encourage anyone interested in the subject to provide counter-research, honestly it’s the only way we will gain any traction on whether or not gaming itself causes any problems. But there’s no strong evidence that it does that I can’t find or anyone else has published beyond anecdotes about people providing tabloid or click-bait stories that are always one offs. This isn’t the case for many other addictions. It’s never ‘peer-reviewed, accepted research shows video gaming is the cause of x% of such and such’, it’s always a) guy on internet ‘I’ve seen my best friend fall victim to this and it ruined his life…’ or b) ‘middle-class parent talks of their child having not eaten or slept for 8 days due to Fortnite… also, they cooked and ate their own dog’ – if you sift beyond the agenda, most of these stories have the same thing in common – the person has other red flags in their behaviour patterns to suggest there’s way more to it. They’re trying to treat addictive behaviours by (ultimately) removing gaming – this will not cure anyone, as for as any proof goes. I’m happy to be proven otherwise but not by single shock stories. I guarantee, if asked, you will find many more, better, examples where the opposite (gaming helping people) is true.

      I’m open to the point that, if there some collective large-scale and accepted research taken over the next decade or so (there will be plenty going on already, hopefully) akin to those in other fields I will listen.

      For now, it all reads, to me at least, like gaming is, yet again, being scapegoat for masking mental health issues.

      I disagree that the response to the masive influx in tabloid and sensationalism media on the subject is a knee-jerk reaction to defend a hobby in a broader sense (not saying it doesn’t happen or even that there isn’t an element of that in my own article, of course) but I believe it’s more down to the fact that gaming is an easy and lazy target for not looking at the individual needs of someone potentially requiring professional help, for monetary gain.

      Thanks for reading, I’d like to think the topic can be opened up in a meaningful way and it’s more measured comments like yours that enable this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for writing it. My point on people immediately leaping to the defence of gaming refers to comments such as “Well I played violent games and I never murdered anyone”. These comments are as equally as unhelpful as the anecdotal comments regarding video games making people eat their dogs. There needs to be reasoned, and researched, discussion from both sides.

        Liked by 1 person

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