Expert Advisory - Gaming Disorder

Monday, June 18, 2018

The World Health Organization (WHO) is moving to categorize the compulsively playing of video games as a new mental health condition. 

The U.N. health agency said classifying Gaming Disorder as a separate condition will serve a public health purpose for countries to be better prepared to identify this issue.

The University of Waterloo has experts available to speak on this topic. 

Neil Randall - Executive Director of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute

Associate Professor Randall is head of the Games Institute, which was created to study game, game-driven interactions and technologies, and, in a broader scope, any form of productive, compelling engagement with digital technologies. He has played video games extensively since the early 1980s and published hundreds of reviews, articles, and columns on video games from 1984-2004.

"The WHO designation is welcomed, primarily because video games can indeed tap into the tendency of some players to become immersed to the point of neglecting too many aspects of the world around them and the lives they lead. But it is important to remember that these are rare occurrences, and there is a vast difference between being willing immersed - think binge-watching on Netflix, for example - and the kind of over-compulsion in video games that can lead to self-destructive behaviour. Like all mental health conditions, this is complex."

Neil Randall

Lennart Nacke - Director of the Human-Computer InteractionGames Group at the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute

Associate Professor Nacke is cross-appointed to the University of Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science and the Department of Systems Design Engineering and the Games Institute. He is a leading expert in gamification and games user research, where he has conducted studies on the nature of human motivation, personalized user experience design in video games, and human-computer interaction.

"More research is needed to determine whether a gaming disorder is a stand-alone disorder or just symptomatic of other primary causes. Classifying gaming as a disorder could do more harm than good because highly engage gamers could become stigmatized, and this could cause a moral panic leading to overdiagnosis in a medical context. When you apply clinical concepts to the everyday contexts of kids, you are not necessarily supporting them to develop healthy technology engagement habits."

 —Lennart Nacke

Christopher Perlman - School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo

Assistant professor Perlman research focusses on the assessment of mental health and addiction issues, health services and systems (e.g., access to care), and healthcare evaluation (e.g., quality of care). He focusses on how healthcare data can be used to support health system decisions related to mental health and addictions, such as screening for service eligibility.

“First and foremost, it is important to recognize that problematic video gaming, like problematic substance use, occurs when the activity severely impacts a person’s self-care, education or employment, financial circumstances, or family and social life. Proper screening and monitoring tools can be helpful to identify early those whose gaming may become problematic, and to help get proper support for those whose gaming has become problematic.” 

 —Christopher Perlman

Mark Ferro - Canada Research Chair in Youth Mental Health

Ferro is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. As a psychiatric epidemiologist, his research aims to understand the intersection of physical and mental illness in children and youth.

“As it relates to children and youth, parents should know that the classification of gaming disorder as a distinct mental health condition reflects compulsive video game playing and affects a very small number of young people. It is when gaming results in impairment of daily functioning—particularly in the areas of academic performance and socialization in children and youth—that it may be problematic and parents may want to seek help from a health professional.”

 —Mark Ferro


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Media Contact:

Ryon Jones
University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 30031

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