Losing yourself in a computer game can give you a break from everyday concerns and stress for a short period, it can be an enjoyable activity, and if you are in the midst of traveling can also be a way to while away the time.
The key is a balance, but given how addictive gaming can be, there can be serious consequences for those who cannot pull themselves away from the screen.
Serious enough, it seems, for the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially decree gaming addiction as a true mental disorder.
As first reported by The Next Web, the WHO has finalized the 11th edition of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11), a diagnostic report used for the classification of disease and disorders in the medical world.
Due to take effect in January 2022, the latest edition considers excessive gaming as an "addictive behavior disorder."
Within ICD-11, the health organization says that gaming disorders are characterized by "a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior which may be online or offline."
If a gamer is unable to control how long they spend in front of a screen, if they prioritize their digital pursuits ahead of other "life interests and daily activities," and if they continue to play despite "negative consequences," they may be considered an addict.
In particular, the WHO considers a sufferer of a gaming disorder to be someone whose behavioral patterns are of "sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning" over a 12-month period or shorter should the "addiction" be severe.
WHO has also taken the time to mention "hazardous gaming." This is the next level of seriousness for someone who may be addicted to gaming and is classified as such when there is a risk of "harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual."
By adding a classification to excessive gaming behavior, this will potentially allow more scope in the field of research for studying gaming addiction, and will also give recognition to its potential consequences.
A technology addiction specialist at London's Nightingale Hospital, Dr. Richard Graham, told the BBC in 2018 that WHO's decision -- a proposal rather than official confirmation at the time -- would "create the opportunity for more specialized services [and] it puts it on the map as something to take seriously."
However, as a newly-recognized disorder, there is a risk that simply enthusiastic gaming or excitement over a new title may be interpreted by parents and guardians as a disorder.
Gaming industry organizations, naturally, have not all met WHO's new classification with applause. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), a US organization which represents gaming publishers, has released a statement calling for WHO to reverse its decision.
While the ESA calls WHO an "esteemed organization," the gaming body argues that there is not "sufficiently robust evidence to justify inclusion [of gaming addiction] in one of the WHO's most important norm-setting tools."
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