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Portrait of a Gamer - Felipe Parada


Nothing good can come of this

by Felipe Parada

I never thought I'd live to see the day when playing video games becomes classified as an official "Disorder". Sadly those days are upon us. The World Health Organization is adding "gaming disorder" to its globally recognized list of medical conditions. Regardless if the condition is globally recognized, many are asking if the diagnosis is legitimate. For anyone who doesn't know, The International Classification of Disease, Eleventh Revision (ICD-11) is a system of medical coding created by the World Health Organization (WHO) for documenting diagnoses, diseases, signs and symptoms and social circumstances.


The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) lists gaming disorder under "disorders due to addictive behaviors" in the 11th revision of the ICD. The ICD-11 will be presented to the World Health Assembly in May 2019; the newest revision will then go into effect in 2022. Now, 2022 may seem like a long ways away but next thing we know many of s will fall under the category of having a legitimate disorder. I mean the ICD-11 even categorizes being transgender as a metal disorder. The ICD-11 is a pretty important document so once it's in there doctors, insurers, government agencies can use this document to aid them in making any necessary decisions surrounding health care.


I think this is where the problem lies. What if you play a lot of chess or any type of card game? According to WHO, you're perfectly fine because this classification only pertains to any type of digital format. If you are like me and like to play online with other people, then there may be a sign of trouble. Even if you are playing any offline game like Tetris, God of War, and Minecraft; those games aren't safe and can possibly raise a red flag. Now, if you participate in any activity that is a detriment to other responsibilities and/or any activity that would have to a profound negative consequence to your social, familial, or work life, then please seek help immediately because addiction is no joke. 


The ICD-11 categorizes gaming disorder as an addictive disorder in the same category as drug abuse. But how can that be? Drug abuse consists of something one consumes, so how can video game addiction be categorized as a disorder. Well the ICD-11 focuses more on the behavior as the underlying addiction because it is an activity that one performs, rather than consumes. Just like a gambling addiction, a gaming disorder will join that classification once it passes.


As defined by the ICD-11:


"Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behavior and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe."


I don't think any good can come from this. Sure I understand that loot boxes do fall under the category of "gambling addiction" and countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have already ruled that loot crates in certain games qualify as illegal gambling but how can "video games" be thrown into the mix like that? Dutch officials are still pushing for new legislation to fight the issue throughout the European Union. I'll even go as far as saying that ANYTHING can be an addiction just by using the "an activity that one performs, rather than consumes" argument.


Let's just go bold an start throwing in political and economic "activities" that one performs rather than consumes. I'll even go as far as saying that people who constantly use their cell phone are addicts. What about business practices that prey on customers spending money on add-ons, upgrades, and subscriptions. The whole loot box issue was just the beginning and now were seeing a much deeper issue on the horizon. Even if there is an individual with a mental condition, the business practices aren't helping them cope with the issue.


I don't claim to be an expert in psychology but let me reiterate my previous statement, nothing good can come of this! The one thing I can predict is the increased level of research that will go into this field and all the misdiagnosed individuals who will be sent for treatment that will never have the issue fixed. Having people go "off grid" for weeks at a time wont solve the real mental condition. And if all else fails just pump pills into them hoping that the pills will help them cope. 


We're in very dangerous territory considering that the significance of the WHO’s decision. It’s a big deal to have something clinically diagnosed because it can get very, very expensive. Do we really need resources shifted to the treatment instead of whether or not treatment is actually necessary? Let's say I suffer from gaming disorder, does this mean that my treatment can be covered by my health insurance? We all know what can happen when health insurance is involved. This all seems like some sort of attack on gamers, just like when Kentucky governor Matt Bevin called video games a "cultural problem". I guess this is the governments way of justifying their discomfort with this generations habits. 

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