Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is classifying gaming addiction as a mental disorder.
The diagnostic manual was last updated in 1990 and is now used by more than 100 countries, including Canada. For nearly 30 years people's lifestyles have changed and that includes the growth of gaming in most people's lives. However, the draft outlines the criteria needed to determine whether someone can be classed as having a gaming disorder.
Such behaviour can be classified as a disorder if it is of "sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning". Diagnoses would be split between predominantly online and predominantly offline cases.
In 2015, a 17-year-old Russian boy was rushed to hospital and died after falling into a coma while playing video games nearly continuously for 22 days, only stopping to sleep and eat. Furthermore, mobile gaming has now ensured that the fun can be taken outside with apps such as Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Pokemon Go! proving endlessly moreish. Just like with gambling and drug addiction, it is not so much the amount of consumption that is the earmark for classification.
Ferguson and Andrew Przybylski, a psychologist at the University of Oxford, both said that the focus shouldn't be on gaming but on an individual's tendency to overindulge in any given activity, suggesting that excess gaming could be a "coping mechanism" rather than a problem unto itself.
Impaired control over gaming (such as frequency, intensity and duration).
Sharma and his colleagues have seen dozens of young people - the youngest a 11-year-old and the oldest a 20-year-old - over the past three years at the Nimhans Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic, the first exclusively for patients with technology-related addictive behaviour. Often taking precedence over usual life interests or priority over responsibilities.
Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
According to the World Health Organization, gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline and evident over a period of at least 12 months.