CALLING gaming a disorder is wrong and risks harming kids, Dr Jo Twist, head of UK games industry group UKIE says – and if parents only ‘took an interest’ they’d see the benefits games have to offer.
Those behind the creation of gaming disorder have “no understanding of the complexity” or games, Dr Twist says.
Parents also need to be aware of the benefits of gaming and not just listen to the scare stories, but talk to their children about their hobbies and interests.
“The key is for parents and carers to take an interest and understand the breadth of games,” she says, and actually talk about what makes certain games so compelling, “just as they would for music or any other playground craze.
“Understanding the social connections young people make with each other while playing games like Fortnite safely together and the strategic skills they pick up by playing is important but too often drowned out,” Twist explains.
Gaming may be is still being singled out as a new and disruptive force despite being a forty-year-old pastime now. “There is a real concern that all games are being conflated with general screen time concerns,” Twist says.
This echoes concerns raised by Georgia Tech’s Media Studies Ian Bogost.
“Why is gaming the only official computer-related behavioural addiction? Why not internet or smartphone addiction?” he asks, writing for The Atlantic.
He also suggests members of WHO’s advisory group behind the creation of gaming disorder were put under “enormous pressure” to do so.
“If who had been around 100 years ago, maybe we would have been talking about telephone addiction instead,” Christopher Ferguson, a clinical psychologist at Stetson University says.
A journal article Ferguson co-authored for the American Psychological Association on “the push to pathologise video games,” made it clear that there was “little clarity has been achieved regarding diagnostic criteria and appropriate symptoms,” and warned of the potential “fallout” from what would be a “premature” classification.
“There is no conclusive evidence linking games to addiction,” Twist says, “and the concerns should be around understanding how we interact online, how we protect ourselves, and how we encourage a healthy balance of screen time and other activities as part of modern life.”
Like Ferguson and Bogost, Twist argues that the creation of gaming disorder “does nothing but risk pathologising the wrong thing,” and fails to address the underlying issues that individuals who might be slapped with that label may have.
“We must be careful not to ignore potential underlying issues that may drive some people to seek solace in games in an unbalanced way,” she says.
Their views are even backed up by those making money treating gaming ‘addiction’ for £5,000 a pop, who treat the new disorder it in exactly the same way as other behavioural compulsions.
Since the classification, Ukie has been looking at what other “information and support” they can offer to parents and carers who may have concerns about games.
Parents need to realise that age ratings are “an incredibly important tool”, and that “parental controls that exist on all main games playing devices can be used in conjunction with age ratings to prevent children from playing games that are not suitable for them.”
There is “a shared responsibility between industry, retail and parents” to make sure that kids don’t play games that aren’t appropriate, just as there is for film and music, Twist says.
“A healthy happy game playing community is critical to the success of the game, so these measures to protect players and to support them are there for a reason,” she explains.
- askaboutgames.com is Ukie’s main resource for parents and carers, created with the Video Standards’ Councils ratings board