The world health organisation recently had a revelation, in all their infinite wisdom: apparently, an addiction to gaming is a mental disorder, up there with the likes of dementia, schizophrenia and ADHD. An addiction to gaming is a cause for concern, is something to worry us, something dangerous and undesirable.
Except, how can it be quantified? In adults, it is a choice. Adults prioritising video games over other things is their prerogative, is their life, their individual action. Something you enjoy so much you’d rather do it over almost anything else, and indeed spend a lot of your free time doing, should not qualify you as mentally ill. Kids becoming addicted to video games is weak parenting, a testament to the wetness of modern discipline, a testament to the lacking enthusiasm we as adults and peers have for instilling order in the lives of our children and young people at the risk of offending their sensibilities, or those of the moronic hyper liberal machine that has overseen this woeful societal transition.
Yes, videogames can be addictive, like junk food or smoking or drugs, but just as the junk food addict is destined to a life of obesity and heart disease, and the smokers fate lies in lung cancer and terrible breath, the video game addict has secured for themselves a path to lacking social skills, probably loneliness, and a perpetual state of tiredness.
All of the above are fair enough in small or measured doses, in reality, looking at it from an adult perspective. There is all the ‘not even once’ rhetoric, but really, as an average person, a little bit of anything – a few (dozen if you’re me) biscuits with your brew or a smoke with a beer – doesn’t often kill you. Even if it did, as an adult making an individual decision, your autonomy should take precedence.
With children however, the tone becomes a little different. Like anything else, it is up to us as adults – parents and peers- to set an example and the benchmark of reasonable behaviour. In so far as you would be disappointed in your child should you find them smoking, and you wouldn’t let them eat themselves into the oblivion of obesity (hopefully!) so too should you monitor and adjudicate the amount of time they spend on video games, aswell as the games they play. With lacking discipline in this matter, not only are you stealing from children the essence of human interaction that comes with playing out and involving yourself with others in a physical, actual sense, but you are encouraging addictive behaviour and weakness of mind.
So in this sense the decision to class a pattern of gaming behaviour where gaming takes precedence to the point that it starts to impact social, educational and professional life as a “mental disorder” is actually another manifestation of this social liberal human idealism, the despicable tendency of social liberalism to assume there is a need to interfere with individualism on a pan-existential level, a dangerous transition to the socio-political realities of totalitarian regimes. Qualifying personal choice in adults as mental illness, or qualifying kids as mentally ill because their parents don’t have the capacity to properly discipline them, is wildly over reaching and pitifully weak as a social stance.
It is also pretty predictable, considering we overlook bad parenting all the time in terms of things like how kids act in school, their lacking discipline when it comes to going to bed or staying out late, the fact that parents allow their kids to watch age rated films or play GTA, or tell us that they’re “transgender”, whatever that is… what this all speaks to is a wider problem in society with the notion of limiting or disciplining kids to alter and change their behaviour (as we should be doing much more so that we do).
It speaks to this liberal idea that people should be free to do whatever they want to do, then when they do that so much it destroys their capacity to think, calling it a mental illness and giving them a get out of jail free sympathy card to play for the rest of their lives. How is it we have got to a point where spending eighteen hours a day playing Fortnite isn’t anyone’s fault? How have we got to a point where we see a kid doing that and think “aww, look at poor little mentally ill jimmy” and not “what the hell are that poor bastard’s parents doing letting him play games for a straight eighteen hours a day?!?!”. The hierarchy of concern is all so wrong.
Furthermore, how have we found ourselves at a junction in society where playing online with your mates for too long is a mental illness but apparently, pretending you are a woman and cutting your own dick off isn’t. The fact that we have found ourselves in a society that is demanding we accept ‘gender fluidity’, in all it’s clearly mentally ill glory, and accept the idea that someone can magically change biology because of their insecurities, and yet at the same time condemn and cradle people who like to spend their time in a virtual world away from all that lunacy talking to people they get along with and enjoy the company of is so laughably wrong it’s almost right.
Addiction might be a mental illness, but attaching that moniker to “gaming” is a misunderstanding of gaming culture, and I think the parameters of addiction are being blurred to ignore personal choice. They are also being used to account for what actually amounts to lacking discipline and authority. Yes, if people seek help then give it to them, but don’t patronise us. Don’t make concessions for peoples’ weakness and increasing inability to control and discipline their children.
If you turn up to a doctor’s saying your child is addicted to gaming, you have failed in your duties as a parent; the child’s temperament and access to gaming is entirely the responsibility of the parent. Similarly, if a grown ass man wants to spend his life on video games, leave him to it. It isn’t anyone’s place to tell him that’s wrong, or a problem, but his own. Should he seek help when he recognises a problem, so be it, but please don’t attach the same stigma to gaming as we do to drugs or alcohol, they’re not just different leagues, they’re different sports entirely.