Excessively playing video games is now a medical condition and is recognized as an addiction disorder by the World Health Organization. The WHO has updated its official diagnostic manual, to include “gaming disorder.”
According to the WHO definition, gaming becomes a disorder when it interferes with daily life. This can be witnessed when a person loses control around gaming, gives priority to gaming over other interests and daily activities, and continues gaming despite negative effects on work, schooling, family life or social relationships.
The WHO guidelines mention that in most cases, a person needs to show 12 months of symptoms to receive this diagnosis.
The American Psychiatric Association has estimated that between 0.3% and 1% of the world's population suffers from gaming disorder, or upwards of 75 million people.
Gaming industry is booming as video and online games made nearly $44 billion in sales last year, which is more than movie theaters or streaming services. 167 million Americans played an electronic game in 2018 as per the data available from eMarketer. Gaming is taking the place of older social media platforms.
The video game industry has severely opposed this decision since WHO first proposed it in 2018.
The Entertainment Software Association representing video game makers in the U.S., has said that a gaming disorder designation "recklessly trivializes real mental health issues."
Dr. Richard Graham, a technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, mentioned that he sees about 50 new cases of “digital addiction” annually. He said, to determine if anyone has the disorder, he looks at whether their digital life is interfering with work, socializing, sleep or education.
We have to realize that gaming disorder is not about the number of hours played. It occurs when gaming becomes more important than hygiene, health, relationships, finances, etc, according to Dr. John Jiao, an emergency medical doctor.