A new NHS treatment centre takes on the new—and contested—social problemby Tola Onanuga / October 24, 2019 / Leave a comment
The first specialist NHS clinic to treat gaming addiction in the UK will open at the start of November in London, allowing children and adults who are seriously addicted to computer games to access free treatment and support, according to NHS England.
The move comes at a time when the gaming industry has experienced enormous growth over the past decade. Recent figures show that there are approximately 2.2 billion gamers across the world and the global video games industry is worth about £110bn, a number that is estimated to rise to £140bn by the end of 2021.
Multiplayer games such as Fortnite, released in 2017, have become a genuine pop-culture phenomenon. However, their enduring popularity among younger players, has sparked concerns about the amount of time gamers spend playing. Reports of extreme gaming addictions have risen; one horrifying case resulted in a US woman being jailed in 2011 for allowing her toddler daughter to die of malnutrition while she spent hours playing World of Warcraft, another hugely popular online multiplayer game.
More recently, a group of Canadian parents have issued a lawsuit against makers of Fortnite for allegedly making the game as addictive as cocaine and “ruining children’s lives”.
A problem or a hobby?
There is, however, much disagreement around gaming addiction, or “gaming disorder”, as it has been termed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which categorised it as a health condition last year. The official definition states that the disorder is a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour in which people lose control of their gaming behaviour, among other things.
This definition has prompted both praise and criticism. James Good, a gamer who formerly suffered from addiction, told Sky News that these changes will help people get the support they need. Good now works at Game Quitters, a support organisation for those “fighting to take back their lives from video game addiction.” Conversely, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute Andrew Przybylski has insisted that gaming addiction is “absolutely not an addiction.” The global gaming industry is firmly opposed to the WHO’s categorisation and has urged the WHO to reconsider its decision. The Entertainment Software Association, the US trade association of the industry, recently stated that the decision “trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder.”
Meanwhile the NHS…