Preparing for virtual danger is what video gamers do best. But they may not be ready for this real-world health hazard: too much playing time.
The World Health Organization has revised its disease manual. WHO specialists now consider compulsive video game playing a mental health condition. They say classifying “gaming disorder” as a condition will help families and health care workers be more watchful and ready to identify the risks of gaming.
Most experts admit cases of gaming disorder are rare—with no more than 3% of gamers affected. But the conclusion confirms the fears of some parents of avid young gamers.
God graciously gives us all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) He even gives cravings! From the beginning, Adam and Eve craved food and beauty and fellowship. (Genesis 2:9, 18) But when cravings—“the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life”—overtake the craving for God, they are wrong. (1 John 2:15-16)
Some people welcome the gaming disorder label. They say identifying addicts quickly is important because compulsive gamers are usually young people—those who often don’t seek help themselves.
Others worry the label may brand too many gamers. “People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict,” says Dr. Joan Harvey of the British Psychological Society.
Dr. Mark Griffiths has researched gaming disorder for 30 years. He says most people play video games for entertainment. “You have these short, obsessive bursts and yes, people are playing a lot,” he says, “But it’s not an addiction.”
Griffiths believes many compulsive gamers probably have other problems—like autism or depression. Those problems feed their playing too much.
The American Psychiatric Association knows gaming is a problem. APA studies show that playing video games triggers something in some people’s brains “in the same . . . way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance.” Still, the association believes doctors need more research before calling compulsive gaming a disorder.
What are symptoms of a gaming problem? Here’s a partial list:
—Anger, nervousness, or sorrow when gaming is taken away
—Needing to spend more time gaming
—Failed attempts to quit
—Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
—Lying about time spent gaming
—Using gaming to feel better
—Risking jobs or friendships because of gaming
The dangers of excess are clear. Too much of a good thing—food, sleep, exercise, or video games—is just that: too much.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. — Proverbs 22:3