Today I broke my keyboard pondering gaming addiction and what it would mean for us in the future.

Over the last month, there has been quite the debate, discussions and downright abuse circulating around the World Health Organisation’s latest decision. It focuses on the inclusion of “Gaming Disorder” in their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

After raiding the internet for as many informed discussions as I could find, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, there is a very small minority of people who this affects, and it is important to address this for those people. But I also have a great and infuriating fear that this could boil into something much greater. Where does it end? Why aren’t we classing people who fanaticise about the gym as addicts? What about avid readers? Or better yet, what about the vast majority of people who watch tv? Are we going to have a Love Island addiction crop up somewhere in the future?

We’re All Addicts

WHO has described gaming addiction as “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.”

So far the media, primarily the BBC, have portrayed this as basically Cartman in the “Make Love, Not Warcraft” South Park episode.

Even Twitter wasn’t safe from the opinionated drivel that was the over-concerned, pitchfork-wielding knights of the internet. Save the children by taking away what they are enjoying.

There has been so much fear circulating around video games and young people, concerned parents now believe that their little Timmy and Jill are addicted because they play Fortnite after school.

Now don’t get me wrong, if someone is physically or mentally impaired because of the sheer amount of games they are playing, then yes it should be recognized. If their health is faltering because of it, yes it needs to be discussed. But don’t go denouncing your child as an addict, just because they want to escape from reality for a few hours. This is where one of the major problems lie.

Don’t Do Games Kids

“My Jimmy won’t tidy his room because Call of Duty is consuming his soul.” Well ever-fearful parents, take the fecking console off them. Cut off the internet until their chores are done. Put boundaries in place so that kids can grow up understanding that there needs to be a balance between work and recreation. What makes me pound my keys is the fact that many parents are using gaming disorder to justify their lack of ability. Yes…I said it. If your child is moaning that they won’t come to dinner or do their homework, it’s your household, take charge and take the game away from them. Stop pussyfooting around the issue and blaming the games for your inability to parent.

Now if the person is becoming distressed/literally unable to cope without gaming, then maybe consult someone about it. Gaming disorder can be the first thing to blame, but there could also be an underlying issue.

The most important idea is, don’t label your child an addict because of their interest, that’s going to isolate them and down-right piss them off. Introduce a balance between a healthy lifestyle and their interest.

How about you play the game with them? Maybe the game won’t be so cool if their 40-year-old parent is playing too. Stop pulling out the torches and listening to the fear-mongers of the media.

Culture of Gaming

Gaming culture is a thing now. I’m not sorry to all those generations where, racism, homophobia, and misogyny were the “in” thing, those times are over folks. We’ve got a never-ending gender spectrum, gay-marriage in places like Ireland and a culture of young people that are constantly online and yes, gaming. This is the Age of Technology, deal with it and roll with it, or be left behind with your archaic ideals.

How about we talk to the people who are being labeled before throwing them down in front of a therapist. A great article to look into is over on Kotaku. Senior reporter, Cecilia D’Anastasio, spoke with a number of people affected by a gaming disorder and brings up some great points.

One of these is the possibility that labeling gaming as an addiction may lead to a misdiagnosis. Gaming addiction may be a factor in other larger issues like depression or anxiety. However, these can also be due to an unhealthy attitude towards gaming. This is a great point and will hopefully be looked into and actually discussed by the WHO in the future.

But WHO Knows Best?

What infuriates me the most is that people instantly took on board the idea that the WHO’s word was law. Their word must be the law! However, during the press announcement, Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, said that the evidence and information are incomplete regarding gaming disorder because until now it hasn’t been recognized.

I understand there is an issue that we need to explore and look into. The problem was that the vast majority took this as there was a massive problem with gaming addiction affecting many gamers. However, as the WHO has said: “studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities”.

Gaming Addiction in the Media

But this wasn’t discussed when Kendal Parmar was spreading the idea that gaming disorder is going to ruin your kid’s lives.

Now I’ve highlighted a particular article with Kendal Parmar because it is the most hilarious. This isn’t due to the addiction at all, but the misinformation. Disclaimer – yes, if her son has an unhealthy relationship with gaming and it is adversely affecting his life, I have no issue with her pushing for awareness. The issue I have is that she says her son has been addicted for 3 years and the media outlet states “her son had been the “most sociable” out her five children prior to getting addicted to Fortnite.” But even Fortnite’s early-access only came out on July 25, 2017? Are they implying that her son is not only an addict but some sort of time-traveler?

Again we can see the media trying to stir the pot with this article. In the article, the Daily Mail tries to make use of a study that looked into internet addiction. How is this relevant? Again, it is the fear of the technological age that they are trying to rile up. Instead, write an article about internet addiction and look into that and not just gaming. Stop grabbing random-ass articles that make it seem like you know what you’re talking about.

Where Does it End?

My greatest issue, other than mislabelling, misinformation and my own receding hairline. Is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Why aren’t we labeling internet use as an addiction? What about people who may be unhealthily addicted to exercise? What about reading too much? If these things are also impeding on a person’s mental and physical health, why isn’t the WHO looking into this also? Is it because gaming is just so easy to target? Remember when every person who played GTA was going to grow up to be a blood-driven murderer who wears the skin of their victims.

There has always been fear circulating around video games. Jumping on that fear with such little supporting evidence was where the WHO messed up the most. They allowed the fear to fester by announcing that parents may now have poor little addict kids. Fear is what the media has driven up around this. The fear that your children are going to become mindless monsters, whose diet consists of Dr. Pepper and Cheetos who demand bedpans before they inevitably shit down your arm.

As we can see below at the last sighting of Crash Bandicoot. A mob of angry parents put him to the torch, believing him to be the cause of their kid’s addictions. (Pfffft Crash Bandicoot was so last year).

Stop lighting the torches; talk to your kids/loved ones if this is an issue. This time next year, we’ll have forgotten about Fortnite and we’ll have moved on to the next trend to blame.

Open some discussions if you’re concerned you know someone may have a gaming disorder. Don’t just brand them as an addict, you’ll only end up with shit on your arm.

WHO you owe me a new keyboard, it’s burnt from putting out all the torches you ignited.