The World Health Organisation has added ‘gaming disorder’ to the international classification of diseases, officially recognising it as a mental health issue. But its prevalence has divided academics and gamers.
Under its current definition, to be diagnosed with a gaming disorder, a person would have to form a pattern of abstaining from average activities – like sleeping, eating, and socialising – for 12 months.
Only one per cent of the population are estimated to be at that level of addiction, which has led some to question the method of diagnosis.
Tim Klapdor from Charles Sturt University Wagga’s Division of Learning and Teaching argues the perception of addiction may be flawed if it relies only on a time value.
“The concept of addiction is often defined by a percentage of leisure time. How good of an indicator is that?,” Mr Klapdor said.
“If someone spends six hours a week gaming they might be considered addicted, but what about someone who spends the same time playing football? They’re dedicated to their sport.”
Another method of diagnosis may rely on what an individual might sacrifice in their life to continue playing the game. That might be their job, their health, or their social life.
But Mr Klapdor argues this too can be problematic.
“A lot of online games actually have a social component, so for a lot of people they can build relationships with people around the world, and so they’re there not just to play the game but to interact.”
Inclusion on the international classification of diseases preludes a change in global governing. Policy may focus on either prevention or cure.
Since many games are built to provide return users with a dopamine hit, the more likely solution will be to impose tougher restrictions on the industry.
But Wagga app developer and Anomaly Software founder Dev Mukherjee believes the question needs to be reframed.
“Technology is not the issue, it’s a social problem that needs to be treated that way. You could become addicted to anything,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“Could you read too many books, could you become addicted to reading? I think a lot of companies now understand digital well-being.”