It is really getting pretty out of hand. Epidemic proportions, I’d say.
Pete Etchells sets out the debate on so-called “Gaming disorder” in this thread on Twitter. It’s well worth reading in full and in detail:
Right. I was hoping to write something for the blog this week about the WHO gaming disorder classification ruckus, but I’m probably not going to have time. So instead, a thread.
— Prof. Pete Etchells (@PeteEtchells) June 20, 2018
Essentially, the current obsession concerns the proposal to issue ICD guidelines for “video gaming disorder” to be diagnosed according to three symptoms:
- Impaired control over gaming;
- Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
And then there’s this worryingly incoherent guideline around timing:
“…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…symptoms are severe”
In other words, while “12 months” is mentioned, it is mentioned in a way that is meaningless. The criteria allow you to be diagnosed with “Gaming disorder” well within 12 months. You could be diagnosed after 6 months, for example. Or even after one month. Technically, there is nothing to stop a concerned doctor formulating this diagnosis after a single week.
As there is no lower time limit — and no definition of “severe” — everything depends on what the person doing the diagnosing feels about your behaviour.
If you think this is incredibly vague, then you are absolutely correct. Hell, there isn’t even a definition of “gaming” in these criteria. And this really matters because gaming is supposed to be the secret sauce that defines this magic modern malaise.
That’s what makes the whole enterprise suspiciously bogus.
People often exhibit compulsive behaviour, obsessional interests, and an apparent addiction to activities that involve shifts in physiological function or mood. In all probability, video-gaming is merely one non-unique example of an activity on which a person might become excessively dependent.
But that doesn’t make “Gaming addiction” a thing. As in, it doesn’t make it a separate condition in its own right, distinct from other forms of compulsive or addictive behaviour.
After all, people can become similarly “addicted” to all manner of activities, such as golfing, sudoku, card-playing, knitting, quilting, exercising, record-keeping, bird-watching, train-spotting, coin-collecting, historical battle re-enacting, competitive dog-grooming, or obsessing over the lives of celebrities, soap stars, and public figures.
People can even become obsessed with panicking over things like screen time, video gaming disorder, and cyberbullying.
So I would like to propose a new diagnosis: “Moral Panic Disorder,” the symptoms of which are pretty straightforward:
- Inability not to engage in panic at every opportunity;
- Priority given to panic over other activities; and
- Continuation of panic regardless of negative consequences
Seems pretty legit, if you ask me.
In my view, lots of people would meet these particular criteria. Our modern panickers don’t seem to able to stop themselves, taking every available opportunity on every available platform to repeatedly churn out their won’t-somebody-please-think-of-the-children talking points irrespective of any rebuttal or refutation, and in the absence of any empirical evidence in their favour.
It’s an addiction, I tell you.
Now, if only somebody could develop a cure…
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.