The excessive use of videogames can create dependency. To support it, this time, it is not only parents and educators worried about what for many young people is becoming more than just an obsession; furthermore, the World Health Organization that has inserted the gaming disorder in the eleventh edition of the diagnostic manual of the International Classification Diseases (ICD). Cited under the heading "disorders due to addictive behaviors," the compulsive use of video games is considered like other gambling disorders, like betting and poker, alongside other already classified addictions, such as drugs and alcohol. The new ICD will be published in mid-2018 (more than twenty years after the previous one, released in the nineties), but online, on the WHO website, the document has already been available since January.
The gaming disorder
What is gaming disorder? In the draft, the question, expressly posed, is followed by a concise and detailed answer: "a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences." And furthermore, " For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior 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.”
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the basis for the identification of health trends and statistics at the global level and, at the same time, serves as an international standard for the reporting of diseases and health conditions, a sort of reference point used by doctors and researchers all over the world to diagnose and classify patients' conditions.
The decision to include the gaming disorder in the ICD-11 is based on the in-depth study of the evidence available worldwide and it is the result of the consensus of experts from the various disciplines involved in that field.
The inclusion of the gaming disorder in the new list of diseases of the WHO comes after years of analysis on the danger represented by excessive technological gaming, both online and offline, regardless of the device used (PC, console, tablet, smartphone). Numerous studies have been brought forth and published, studies carried out in the medical field, but also in the socio-psycho-pedagogical use and abuse of 'connection', for play purposes, on the part of not only adolescents and adults, but also by children. It was a couple of years ago that the research published by the famous magazine Jama Pediatrics showed that electronic games, in which the aim is to kill or raid, make children unable to comprehend the consequences of violence.
And, before that, in 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics detected the dangers of new media when the exposure and use of new technologies by children and adolescents became excessive.
A call for caution without alarmism. Some good advice
The research, however, also shows that the disorder affects only a small percentage of people who engage in digital gaming or videogames. But they somehow invite those who use it to pay greater attention to the amount of time that is spent playing, in particular when this involves the exclusion of other daily activities, or changes in physical and psychological health are noticed in social relations that could be attributed directly to their way of playing.
So no alarm, but attention – caution – to the players, this, yes. And for doctors, especially those already involved in the field, a further step forward in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disorder, which could benefit from a shared approach, from the exchange of data and statistics, from the elaboration of study programs and a wide-range research.
To worry, must be the addiction, the excess, the desire to play at all costs, a kind of irrepressible instinct, like that which unfortunately, can hit many who, literally caught, captured by the game, end up losing the contact with reality. Kids like everyone who play for hours and hours, even late at night, looking for the most modern and technological videogame... According to some, social withdrawal is often caused by overbearing parents who prefer not to let their children go out, out of their own laziness and to also keep them under control, or for fear of what's out there. While, in the case of younger children, videogames play the role of baby-sitter, and they even end up replacing the television. For the older ones, however, the ‘web’ often becomes the only space for socializing, and the virtual multimedia game replaces real life. The invitation then, addressed to parents, is to spend more time with their children. It has been observed, in fact, that even the dependence on videogames develops in those who are already fragile personalities and live in situations of hardship often due to a real absence of parents, if not explicitly experienced, at least perceived as lack of sharing - absence of attention. In essence, often, the dependence on videogames represents the effect of the difficulty of parents to relate to their children and that can generate social isolation, which may drive to videogame addiction. This is what happens, in the most extreme cases, in Japan where there is a very high number of hikikomori, adolescents who refuse the world and stayed behind closed doors, avoiding any contact with the surrounding reality, glued to the internet and often to video games, a phenomenon we have already talked about in our portal.
The real challenge is not to forbid but to educate
Videogames should not be demonized, but rather controlled . The advice – it’s imaginable – could be imprinted on a box that contains the phrase: 'handle with care', that care that is needed in all educational and training processes, in the various stages of development of the person and his character. In fact, the videogame is able to offer numerous opportunities. So it is straight from these new studies that it is possible to re-start for an analysis of videogames that takes into account potentials and dangers, and help educators and parents to act as cultural mediators of a process, playful, but also educational, functional at an adequate and conscious use, according to the age of the player/user, of a technological means that has become part of our daily life. Because, both the studies and the clinical analysis prove it: the risk of going from use to the abuse of videogames also depends on the relationship that young people establish with their peers and with adults in authoritative positions, from the conscious control by parents upon their children, from the state of dissatisfaction, discomfort, when it comes to subjects who no longer are very young and for whom the game goes from being a moment of leisure to an escape from reality.
The game studies, moreover, in some way invite us to consider videogames not only as a means of entertainment, but as a tool capable of producing multiple languages and styles of communication, for which, therefore, especially according to some scholars (Bissel) the narrative and expressive dimension, more than their formal, technical, eminently playful aspect, should be predominant. For the innovative scope of the experience and for its ethical value, an educational project dedicated to video games, made at the Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid by Arturo Encinas Cantalapiedra and Alberto Oliván Tenorio, received a special mention in the first edition of the prized Razón Abierta, organized by the Ratzinger Foundation. "La enseñanza de la Narración en Videojuegos o cómo relatamos nuestra vida a través del videojuego", is a course that aims to guide future videogame makers in their professional work, both from the technical point of view and from the point of view of the values that audio visual creations could convey. It is a path designed for the training of experts in the sector who are able to develop attractive videogames, consistent with the dignity of the person, that is the player who is always a person, and the person who is represented in the game through fictional characters.