In the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised “gaming disorder” as a condition, citing it was actually possible to be addicted to video games.
Simply playing a lot of video games, however, doesn’t automatically mean that someone has a problem.
WHO concluded that “the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months in order for gaming disorder” to be diagnosed.
WHO said classifying “gaming disorder” as a separate addiction will help governments, families and healthcare workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risks.
Gaming in Australia
According to the 2016 Digital Australia Report, 98 per cent (%) of Australian homes with children under the age of 18 have a device for computer and video games, which are played for an average of 88 minutes a day. Gaming is not just for young boys. The average age of a gamer in Australia is 33 years old and 47% of video gamers are female.
Not just traditional gaming
There are many devices which can be used to play video games including the traditional gaming console such as a PlayStation or Xbox, however new devices are emerging as new technology develops.
Mobile devices and tablets are becoming more popular in the video game realm with the convenience cited as one of the main reasons for use.
PCs have undergone a large resurgence for game play in the last five years in response to the growth of new content and now account for a third of all game devices used in Australian homes.
The emergence of eSports
Another reason for the rise in popularity of video games in the emergence of eSports – electronic sports. Just like football players take to a field, eSports players play video games against each other.
eSports is big business with huge tournaments now taking place all over the world inside large arenas. Gamers will battle against each other on a particular game, with fans watching on screens live.
Global revenue for eSports rose from $194 million to $463 million between 2014 and 2016. That’s a 239% increase in just two years. The business of eSports is estimated to be worth almost $1.5 billion by 2020.
How prevalent are gaming disorders?
Studies suggest that gaming disorders affect only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities.
However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend playing, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities. They should also monitor any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behaviour.
Overall, the video game market is expected to grow exponentially and WHO hopes citing “gaming disorder” as a condition will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.