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Gaming Disorder? The Problem Runs Much Deeper

Gaming disorder has been in the press again. Not fully understood or even accepted as real by some, every so often there’s a spate of discussion. This has been going on for over a decade.


This time, it’s this piece that has started the discussion. It’s interesting and sympathetic, and I’m not going to go to hard in on the piece itself because those experiences happened. Like anything that takes very specific individual cases from a much larger hobby that’s unfathomably popular, it feels like it’s trying to be far more general that it is. But the issue with anything that is newsworthy is that it is also out of the ordinary. If it were boring it wouldn’t be talked about.

There’s also a good follow-up article in The Guardian talking about issues that lead kids to gaming too much, and that’s also very much worth reading.

The fact is that gaming is to boys what social media is to girls. There is a chance to connect, a chance to be part of something bigger. It’s true that there isn’t much for kids to get involved in these days. Clubs are gone. Youth centres are gone. But would kids want to get involved in those things if they had the chance? Something tells me many wouldn’t.

They’ve been brought up in a world that they’ve been taught to fear. Jonathan Haidt’s Anxious Generation makes a tremendous point about parents being so terrified of child predators that they drove them online… Where the child predators are. They are taught to fear every scratch and bump. Instead they expose themselves to every horror the internet has to offer.

Is Gaming Disorder Real?

This isn’t new. My generation had all kinds of terrible meme videos. I saw some terrible things as a young teenager. But the online world wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. When I stepped away from the PC, my digital life ended. Today not only is every aspect of our lives online, it is expected to be. It’s almost encouraged to be. Mom is on her phone. Dad is on his phone. The family unit is alone together.

The reality is that it doesn’t matter if gaming disorders are a real, specific thing or not. What matters is that obviously our children are hurting. We don’t hear about social media addiction clinics (I suspect because social media is normal and gaming is ‘abnormal’). But if we heard about them, the conversation would go much the same. Something is impacting on their ability to enjoy the real world. If that’s the case, it’s good that there are attempts to help, whatever label they use for that.

The bigger issue is figuring out what the real problems are that are causing an entire generation to back off into a digital world.  It isn’t the case in either of the articles above, but handwringing over video games isn’t going to fix anything. We need to look at the much deeper issue at hand.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott