The W.H.O has classified excessive gaming as a mental health disorder in the draft for 2018 diagnostic manual.
According to the health organisation, a gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.
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 behaviour 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 behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent.
The gaming behaviour 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.
– World Health Organisation
I was particularly drawn to World Health Organisation’s draft due to the initial focus of their study; tablets, smartphones, computers and social media. Like WHO, if you bear any apprehensions for social media networks, smartphones, tablets and the whole online thing – perhaps you should be worried about gaming.
The video game is merely an object, however, contemporary gaming devices are windows to many social worlds and universes of discourse, and it encompasses all the concerns mentioned above.
Gaming is not so disparate, and how a video game is used relatively depends on the player, motivation and space, and the possibilities are vast. It is widely known that consumers do not necessarily interact with products in a manner the developer intended. The holistic adopting of social media as a bridge in gaming changes the scope of game studies. This is the primary motivation for including parents/guardians and gamer’s in my longitudinal game study at the University of Portsmouth.
Personally, I welcome the World Health Organisation’s draft and I think that the draft is a much-needed wake-up call for scholars, practitioners and enthusiast, everywhere. My support for the draft is succinctly condensed into the two areas below;
(1) Research Development
(2) Market development and penetration
1. Research Development
Gaming as a field of study is loosely defined and not understood. This is due to many factors, for instance, misplaced funding, diversity and lack of skills and experience in the distinct and connected fields that make efficient game studies.
By now, most are aware of the early benefits of gaming such as hand-eye coordination, multi-tasking, creative thinking, executive functioning and employ-ability, just to mention a few. That said, modern gaming is so much more than eye-coordination, today, gaming devices are portals to infinite social and entertainment worlds. People/players can now play games, enjoy movies, share music and much more with their friends and relatives around the world via their gaming devices. The essence of my story, there hasn’t been a significant development in gaming studies in the past decade – since Galaxy Zoo in the UK.
2. Market Development and Penetration
The proliferation of computer-mediated-communication in our daily lives has transformed the way we live, the way we love, the way we do business, and the way we play. The change has prompted calls for new and responsive models in most walks of life. There is an emerging sense of urgency that traditional methods may not suffice for the learning that’s going to occur in the future.
Gaming devices have come a long way from the early handheld and arcade systems to powerful consoles underpinned by cloud and web communication technologies. There is a ton of contagion and distortion going on as brands penetrate what is largely an untapped market with unregulated and persuasive models. For instance, as we experience with eSports, where brands and individuals with historical and sometimes nostalgic mental models of gaming seek profitability through hyper personalised models.
Gaming is not a topic that can be tackled behind the walls of a classroom, with mere questionnaires or by taking players out of the space and geography that defines them. There are many lessons that we can diffuse and adapt for gaming paradigm. As an abstract system, gaming paradigm is an excellent print for emerging digital and connected economies. Understanding gaming paradigm requires new collaborative research methods that include academia, media service providers, lawmakers, parents and guardians, players and the third sector.
I think the draft is a good start and inherently sends out a strong signal that echoes gaming is very much part of online, social media, micro-learning, digital literacy and mental health discussions.