Is video game addiction real? The debate has raged ever since the 1970s when arcades began popping up on neighborhood corners - kids would dump every quarter of their allowance into easily time-consuming games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Human beings already must deal with a plethora of dangerous habits, and many believe video games have become one of many strange addictions.
As of 2019, the World Health Organization has officially classified video game dependency as a legitimate mental health disorder. Although there are several medical boards who would disagree, the more important question is: How do you treat video game addiction? Multiple schools of thought advise on how to handle the perceived problem.
The information below will hopefully shed some light on both sides of the issue, whether you're a dedicated gamer or concerned parent. Although professionals have decided the disorder is diagnosable, there are still many questions surrounding video game addiction.
Video Game Dependency Affects More Than Just Teenage Boys
While the majority of those with debilitating gaming habits appear to be teenage males, they are not the only demographic suffering from the condition. Vice interviewed numerous dependent gamers online and came across a 41-year-old recovering problem drinker who began dabbling in online activities. He eventually became so enamored with online puzzles and strategy games, he suffered multiple drinking relapses, eventually culminating in his separation from his wife.
Patricia, a 69-year-old librarian, used World of Warcraft to escape her reality so often, she missed holiday dinners and family visits. She also strained her relationship with her husband, who contracted a terminal disease in the midst of her gaming spiral. She did eventually break away from her habit, providing care for her husband until he passed, later saying of their relationship, "I wasted all our time together. We could have been doing all kinds of things, but I was just gaming."
One Woman's Gaming Dependency Proved Fatal For Her 3-Year-Old Daughter
In 2011, Rebecca Colleen Christie was sentenced to 25 years in prison for causing the demise of her 3-year-old daughter due to neglect. Christie was an avid fan of the massive multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft, playing lengthy sessions that could last more than 12 hours.
Her daughter was left with only cat food to eat and nothing to drink while Christie spent time online. Role-playing games like World of Warcraft are some of the most commonly referenced types of entertainment in gaming-dependency debates, mostly due to their engrossing nature and necessary time commitment.
While Christie's neglect of her daughter - and resulting imprisonment - is a fringe example, some believe such cases provide credence to the notion that gaming dependency should be treated as a legitimate mental disorder.
Some Specialized Facilities Offer Treatment For Video Game Dependency
Treating video game dependency is difficult not only because of the ongoing debate surrounding its legitimacy; the condition is also closely tied to technology many people use every day. The devices that make gaming accessible - such as desktops, laptops, and smartphones - double as the devices necessary for productivity in work, school, and communication. For those with debilitating gaming habits, the activity is, in many ways, not only accessible but unavoidable.
Therapy and, in some cases, behavior modification are often the first courses of action for those suffering from life-altering gaming habits. More serious cases may require in-patient facilities such as reSTART, an internet and gaming treatment center near Seattle, WA. Co-founded by Dr. Hilarie Cash, reSTART offers thorough physical and psychological treatments for recovering dependent gamers.
The APA Believes More Research Into Gaming Dependency Is Warranted
The fifth edition of the DSM labeled compulsive gaming as "Internet Gaming Disorder," designating it as "a condition for further study." The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has described the "typical" dependent gamer as a male between the ages of 12 and 20, stating the condition appears most commonly in Asian countries, closely followed by North America and Europe.
Severity modifiers - such as mild, moderate, and severe - are used to describe the intensity of an individual's gaming behavior. These modifiers are dependent upon the amount of time the individual spends playing games and the impact gaming wreaks on their life.