My video game obsession in adolescence is not a “play disorder”
A translation of Scott Shafkord's revelations: “I was a gay teenager in the 1980s, and was hiding from a frightening world in a slot machine hall. WHO's efforts in the pathology of video games will not help people like me. "
As a teenager, I hung out almost every day for hours at the slot machine in the local mall, which was within walking distance from my home in Sanford, Florida. If I had nothing else to do, it was there that I spent my time. If I had business, sometimes I still played games instead of playing them. Almost all my free time was consumed by games (and, of course, Dungeons & Dragons ).
I was also depressed, hidden homosexual, in the darkest and most severe period of the AIDS crisis , who feared that if someone found out about it, they would beat me, and that if I gave in to my impulses, I would end up sick and die.
It is easy to imagine why I wanted to escape, being in the candy world running around the labyrinths of pakmenov, beetle-like aliens, invading us from space, and pixelated spies. Not sure if I could survive my puberty in the 1980s without video games as a permanent distraction.
According to a new draft of recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), my condition today would be classified as " game disorder"[gaming disorder], which WHO is trying to present as an independent psychological dependence. The debate over whether there is actually a dependence on video games has been going on among psychologists and experts for more than a decade. And now, WHO has taken another step towards announcement of the reality of this phenomenon.
This is a terribly bad idea, it chooses technology as a scapegoat, and redirects resources. People who have experience with video games, as well as those who understand the complex reasons why games are firmly in the lives of others people should resist the temptation to make video game commitment a separate category.
WHO is cautious without defining “frustration” simply by the amount of time spent playing games. But its definition is still too vague and limited by the desire to fit the diagnosis into a template for describing addiction to harmful substances. Here is the proposed definition , which should be published next year:
Game disorder is determined by the draft revision of the 11th revision of the international classifier of diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of game behavior (passion for digital games or video games), characterized by a weakening of control over games, thus increasing the priority of games other activities that put games first among other interests and daily activities, and the continued escalation of hobby games, despite the appearance of gativnyh consequences.
In order to make a diagnosis of a “play disorder,” the pattern of behavior must have a rather negative effect on personal, family, social, educational, work, and other important areas of life, and last for at least 12 months.
This definition uniquely describes me in high school. One day, my father, furious with my penchant for preference for video games to everything else, broke a home gaming system, the Atari 2600, in front of my eyes. But this did not stop my passion for games. Naturally. "Addiction" was not caused by the presence of technology. It was caused by my passionate desire to do something that could captivate a sufficient part of my mind so that I could not think about how terrible I feel at a different time.
And this is one of the reasons why many expert psychologists do not want to isolate the addiction to video games in a separate category of disorders. From an article in the NYT newspaper describing a new definition for WHO:
But some professional psychotherapists insist that gambling disorder is not an independent medical diagnosis. They consider it a symptom or side effect of the more well-known problems - depression or anxiety.
“We don’t know how to treat gambling disorders,” said Nancy Petri, a professor of psychology and an addictions expert at the University of Connecticut. “This is a very new state and phenomenon.”
But is it really new? One person who founded the online support group for people trying to give up gaming habits, called it "a massive tsunami that came at a time when we are not ready for it."
For this recovered gamer, all this is perceived in the same way as before. The entire 40-year history of describing the culture of video games in the media is based on the repetition of the same story. People said the same thing about the slot machine halls. Then about the game console. Then about online games. About any innovations in the world of video games. We should have all been drowned in these "tsunami" that allegedly threatened us. But nothing happened.
Imagine that every time a surge in popularity of the next television show or series, horror stories would appear in the media that we were hooked on TV. This is the description of gaming news. Their last victim was the game Fortnite, an online battle arena that has gained immense popularity in the past few months. Yes, people play it for hours on end. And before that, they had played League of Legends for many hours in a row. And before that was World of Warcraft. And before that was EverQuest. And this list can be continued in the past right up to Space Invaders, if you wish. The myth that video games were a rare hobby that suddenly blew up the world with the spread of the Internet does not disappear. In fact, from the very first moment of the appearance of video games, they were terribly popular. Video game revenues exceed movie revenues.
The nature of cyclical panic caused by video games reminds strangely a panic about every new drug that has to destroy us all. Every time, scary stories appear on Halloween news that someone will hand out candy- free marijuana to children , as if they didn't tell the same scare story last year when nothing like that happened.
A new twist to this story is that it will be possible to make money by decrying the addiction to video games. If next year this paragraph about the “play disorder” remains in the instruction, then the health organizations of many countries will have to reckon with it. And this is the point. WHO notes that this instruction is “used by practitioners all over the world to make diagnoses, and researchers - for their categorization”. These are the potential consequences of the formal recognition by WHO of a game disorder as an independent disease.
One passage from the newspaper gives the rationale for this situation: WHO classification can be used as an excuse to redistribute funding. "Experts" for certain diseases have a financial interest in making an addiction to games officially recognized. They need insurance companies to pay the costs of treatment. They need money for additional research.
“This will untie our hands in terms of treatment, and we will be able to treat patients and receive compensation for it,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, chairman of the psychiatric department at Rutgers Medical School in New Jersey. “We don’t have to do more dancing around this problem, call it depression or anxiety, or any other consequence of the problem, and not the name of the problem itself.”
I tell my own story because I consider it extremely dangerous to regard my teenage behavior in this way. I definitely would not have been helped by a doctor who believed that I was dependent on some surprisingly powerful or dangerous technology, or who regarded the search for answers to the question of why I developed such affection as “dancing around a problem”.
I still play a lot of games (I’m currently in the closed beta test of Magic: The Gathering Arena), but I don’t suffer from "gaming upset." In the past few days I have never played a single game at all - as a teenager it would have been unthinkable for me. What has changed? The world has changed. My life has changed. I no longer need to fear that I'm a homosexual. I do not need to live in fear of AIDS. I do not feel helpless in the face of the outside world. I control my life.
My relationship with the games did not need to change. It was necessary to correct my relationship with everything else. WHO's distorted perception of gambling addiction consists in the assumption that “personal, family, social, educational, working and other important areas of life” should by definition be considered more enjoyable for a person than playing video games, and if this is not the case, then the problem is in the player. But this is not always the case, especially for people who feel depressed, alone, helpless; it is for this reason that it is important to consider the fact that play addiction is a symptom, not a cause. If people turn to video games in order to “run away from reality,” as the “experts” warn us, wouldn't it be most logical to ask “should we fix something in our reality?”