In defence of playing video games


LET'S face it. Console and computer gaming have been given a bad rap once again with the news that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is close to classifying “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition in its 2018 manual on diseases.

I mean, we all saw the news two weeks ago, namely that the WHO had added gaming disorder to  the category of “mental, behavioural or neurodevelop­mental disorders” in its 11th update of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). I definitely saw it, and I most certainly could anticipate the concern and possible outrage by some quarters on different sides of the gaming coin, namely parents and teachers on one end and gamers on the other

Indeed, the definition in the draft - that a person diagnosed with the disorder will have little to no control over gaming, give priority to gaming until it takes over other life interests and a habit of continuous gaming despite the negative effects - definitely sounds alarming, especially when the ICD-11 then goes on to say that such behaviour patterns are "severe enough to significantly affect personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning".

I won't dispute that this definition sounds frightening and dangerous, especially when we consider that gaming is everywhere, be it on computers, consoles, tablets or mobile phones. Indeed, having read the news-pieces knowing full well the weight the ICD carries as an international standard for defining health conditions and diseases, I felt it fit as a gamer to kick off this year's In Your Face with a piece that defends gaming - at least gaming in moderation, of course!

So, with that out of the way, why am I defending gaming? I'm doing it because I know that there are potential benefits that can be reaped from gaming in moderation, benefits that have been outlined and established through research conducted by psychologists which was then summarized by experts like Boston University research professor Peter Gray, who once likened limiting the time of kids on computers to being "like hunter-gatherer adults limiting their kids' bow-and-arrow time" in an article on Psychology Today.

Indeed, Gray then went on to strengthen his assertion by refuting one of the common criticisms of gaming by proving that there is in fact evidence that video games do not make people violent, citing "The Hitman Study" by Christopher J. Ferguson and Stephanie M. Rueda of Texas A&M International University in an article for Psychology Today.

"In one experiment, college students were presented with a frustrating mental task and then were assessed for their feelings both of depression and hostility. The significant finding was that regular players of violent video games felt less depressed and less hostile 45 minutes after the frustrating experience than did otherwise similar students who didn't play such games," said Gray.

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