Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognised “gaming disorder” as a disease. Many in the gaming and gambling industry have since protested the inclusion of gaming disorders alongside other addictive behaviours. Nevertheless, the WHO did make it official per the International Classification of Diseases, also referred to as ICD-11.
In order for medical professionals to be able to properly diagnose gaming disorders, as well as to allow those participating in various forms of gaming to know if they fit the criteria for the diagnosis, academics in the UK, China, and Australia created the first psychological test.
Gaming Disorder per WHO
The World Health Organization decided to include gaming disorders in its 11th revision of the ICD last month at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
It was listed in the category of disorders due to addictive behaviours, and the entry reads:
Gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (digital gaming or video gaming). This 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 behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment of personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. Symptoms and other features are also usually evident over a 12 month period. However, the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.
The wording of the entry is identical to that of a gambling disorder.
Do I Play Video Games Too Much?
The creators of the test acknowledge that video games and gaming in general have been known to produce and enhance positive qualities. Some of the cognitive advantages include improved hand-eye motor coordination, better perception and attention to various tasks, and better working memory and reasoning in older adults.
However, negative results of too much gaming can result in addictive behaviours and aggression. This tends to happen in a “small minority of gamers across different regions of the world.” And it usually takes a 12-month period to determine if addiction is present.
The test – Do I Play Video Games Too Much? – can be used to determine whether a gaming disorder is present. But, researchers also want to use it as a part of a larger study to help refine data and help develop better treatments.
Anyone taking the test should expect it to take approximately 20 minutes, and they will remain anonymous. Participants must be at least 12 years old, and those 12-15 years old will need to provide direct permission and approval from a legal guardian. Anyone 16 years or older is free to participate via their own consent on the website.
– Details of Test
Some of the questions included in the test are as follows:
- Are you a professional gamer (i.e. making a living playing video games)?
- How many hours a week (approximately) do you spend gaming?
- Have you experienced a significant problem in your life due to your gaming activity in the last 12 months?
- Are you currently an active member of a regular guild/clan/team that play together with other fellow gamers?
- Do you use online social network sites?
The survey then offers statements that participants can rank as never, rarely, sometimes, often, or very often. Those questions include:
- I have given increasing priority to gaming over other life interests and daily activities.
- I have continued gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences (e.g. in a relationship, studies or job).
- Do you play in order to temporarily escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g. helplessness, guilt, anxiety)?
- Do you feel more irritability, anxiety or even sadness when you try to either reduce or stop your gaming activity?
Dr. Christian Montag is a molecular psychology professor at Ulm University in Germany and at UESTC in China. He researches psychological and neuroscientific underpinnings of internet use disorders.
Dr. Halley Pontes is a senior lecturer in psychology at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. His primary research focus is the clinical and psychometric assessment of technological addictions related to the internet, video games, and social media.
And Dr. Bruno Schivinski is a sociologist and marketing lecturer at the University of London in the UK and consults for online service providers and websites.