As reports the « Journal du geek » newspaper1, a new milestone was put in the debate concerning health and video games. Indeed, the WHO registered the addiction on the video games on its list of diseases.
If this piece of news can relaunch the debate, because seeming to agree with those who think that video games are a danger for society, Shekhar Saxena, who manages the department of mental health and drug addiction of the WHO, does not take a stand in this debate. Indeed, he declares to the AFP (french-language international news agency), standing neutral, that ” the WHO does not say that any habit to play video games is pathological “. According to the WHO, the addiction is defined by a ” loss of control over the game ” having ” harmful consequences “, as the relinquishment of ” certain activities “, ” like the sleep and the meal “.
Then the WHO doesn’t want to stigmatize video games. Moreover, numerous doctors think that the concerned players are urged by other reasons to be interested in the games; the dependence would be then a symptom of their disease, and not the disease itself.
But to understand the stakes in this announcement, it is already necessary to understand what it means. And the WHO calls back on this matter that its classification of diseases has for objective to notify countries and to help them to make decisions on ” the allocation of resources for the prevention and the treatment of the pathology “. Then what we need to understand, is that the addiction in the video games is becoming a social problem! Not only some individuals here and there, but a big fringe of the world population!
And if this problem emerges only now, it is probably because the domain of video game largely evolved these last years. The editors managed indeed to set up practices which urge the players to play more and more for a long time. As for example the random improve of the characters abilities during the time spent to play. This practice common to all the role player games (RPG) forces literally the player to stay in front of its screen to be able to move forward in the game, inducing a practice called “farming” (the name of which referred to the relation set between the player and his character). Or still the creation of big universes, games in which the scenario is not linear any more and encourage the player to explore the world of the game. Or still, on the contrary, to shorter the cycles of the games and to eliminate the plot aspect of the game (like that could be the case in arcade games, where it was necessary to pay at the beginning of each and every reload of the game).
This last practice, in particular, is in adequacy with the evolution of the materials used to play. From now on, a big part of the games (and thus players) are enabled on portable systems: smartphone or tablet. What it means, is that everyone can have access to a game in only a few seconds, as soon as a down-time appears during the day, because from now on, everybody lives with his smartphone.
But the question is probably wider than the video games addiction. Wouldn’t it be, more fundamentally, about an addiction to technology and to screens? For the record, in 2014, even the Prime Minister of the French Government was forced to prohibit mobile phones during the Council of Ministers2…
Look further / Useful link(s)
1■ Journal of geek : WHO considers video games addiction as a disease
2■ Figaro magazine : Ministers leaved without their smartphones during the meetings