How much gaming is too much?
A Tasmanian academic has led a team to develop the world's first psychological test to assess the severity of the mental illness, Gaming Disorder.
University of Tasmania psychologist Dr Halley Pontes, said Gaming Disorder - once seen as "people gaming for too many hours" - was recently recognised as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation.
"I have argued in favour of recognising Gaming Disorder as a mental health issue as this would lead to several benefits to sufferers," Dr Pontes said.
"At the broad social level, recognition of Gaming Disorder as a mental health issue can help decrease stigmatisation by allowing society to see disordered gaming as a true disorder and not as a sign of personal weakness, bad character or even lack of interest in other life matters and activities.
"This is an important process that resembles early issues in social perception of depression as it was regarded as laziness and not as a mental health disorder.
"Additionally, when a client gets diagnosed with Gaming Disorder it could mean for that person that formal recognition and validation for his/her problems in relation to gaming has finally been obtained."
Dr Pontes said according to the WHO definition, anyone who could no longer control their gaming behaviour, prioritised computer games over other activities and did not change their behaviour despite severe negative consequences, could be suffering from Gaming Disorder.
"Having an evidence-based assessment tool for an emerging mental health issue such as Gaming Disorder is of utmost importance," he said.
In Australia alone, data suggested about 97 per cent of all homes with children have a computer game and 67 per cent of all Australians played video games on a regular basis.
Dr Pontes and Professor Christian Montag from Ulm University in Germany led a pioneering research project aiming to find the most accurate means of measuring the effects of Gaming Disorder.
The team developed the world's first psychological test to assess the severity of Gaming Disorder symptoms and conducted a study of more than 550 students from Great Britain and China.
Dr Pontes said the latest data showed that about 3.9 per cent of Australians aged between 11 and 17 experienced problem gaming which could affect their ability to eat, complete school homework, sleep, and enjoy quality time with their families, friends.
.Anyone interested in checking their gaming behaviours can now fill in a few questions on the researchers' online platform www.do-i-play-too-much.com
"We have developed the world's largest database on gaming behaviours and have provided personalised gaming feedback to nearly 300,000 gamers worldwide," Dr Pontes said.
Having an evidence-based assessment tool for an emerging mental health issue such as Gaming Disorder is of utmost importance.Dr Halley Pontes
Dr Pontes said the online platform provided to those participating in the survey personalised feedback on their gaming behaviours in reference to the nearly 200,000 gamers that have already completed the survey.
He said the research team would recruit further participants via ESL, the largest esports company, with close ties to the gaming community.
Rodrigo Samwell, chief marketing officer at ESL, said the esports company wanted to contribute to responsible gaming, and that is why ESL was supporting the study to help individuals understand better their behaviours towards gaming.
Dr Pontes said with the new study, the research group aimed to understand at which point gaming was becoming a (health) problem and what factors contribute to GD, including socio-demographic variables, personality and motivations.
"This platform will allow us to be able to estimate accurate prevalence rates of GD among a broader population of gamers and draw the line between healthy and unhealthy gaming behaviour," he said.
"In my research I have found that internationally, prevalence rates figure from robust studies using large samples suggest that Gaming Disorder is likely to affect between 1 to 3 per cent of all gamers from developed countries.
"Although the overwhelming majority of gamers will likely reap all the benefits of gaming, some gamers will indeed experience dysfunctional side of gaming.
"Although time spent on gaming is not necessarily addiction, what we know from research is that longer hours invested in gaming usually leads to Gaming Disorder.
Dr Pontes said the American Psychiatric Association suggested in the fifth revision of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that Gaming Disorder was likely to emerge on gamers playing for over 30 hours a week.