Games are a human need; however, they can turn into disease and addiction in some cases. So, how do we know they have turned into an addiction?
A professor of psychology at Hasan Kalyoncu University, Dr. Osman Tolga Arıcak said the presence of three diagnostic criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO) – the loss of control, prioritization of games in life and inability to stop playing despite negative consequences – within the last year can indicate a person's addiction.
Arıcak, who is also a member of the Green Crescent Scientific Committee, told Anadolu Agency that game addiction, defined as "Game Play Disorder" by WHO, considers extreme behaviors that have a negative impact on an individual's life to be a disease.
Since 2015, Arıcak has attended a number of WHO meetings on game addiction and game playing disorders. He said WHO does not take into account the types of addiction like shopping, series, stock exchange and exercise, but works meticulously on game addiction.
"WHO is a serious institution that works based on data. Is there a disease called game play disorder? Of course, there is. They are talking on the basis of the data they have. There are a lot of data from around the world showing that game playing disorder is defined as an addiction. There are a lot of data coming from various countries in the world, especially Europe, the Americas and East Asia. Of course, Japan, China and South Korea lead among Eastern Asian countries where this is more prevalent."
'You can play games without being addicted'
Arıcak defined game addiction as one's loss of control over playing games, prioritization of playing games over everything else in one's life, such as education and family life, and failure to stop playing games despite their negative consequences. "So we do not say that every person who plays games and spends the whole day playing games is a game addict. There is a question that is frequently asked. How many hours of playing games make one a game addict? There are no such diagnostic criteria. So, can a person play games for 15 hours a day? Yes, he can play without being addicted. Playing games is not a bad thing. Some try to present the Green Crescent and WHO as the enemies of games. We are against this. Children, teens and adults will, of course, play games. Playing games is a human need, but it turns into disease and addiction for some people. Here, the three diagnostic criteria set by WHO is important. These criteria are the loss of control, the prioritization of games in life, and the inability to stop playing despite the negative consequences. If you have been observing these three in the last year, you are in the 'game addict' category," Arıcak said. Pointing out that game addiction is underestimated by families and teachers, he said: "A child who has a tablet computer in his hand for a while or a person who spends five to six hours a day playing games is labeled 'game addict.' Addiction is a disease. That is why it is a term that should not be used so easily. We should not take the easy way out and say 'my wife, my child or my brother is a game addict.'"
Underlining that WHO has reached this decision through years of research, Arıcak said game addiction is a difficult disease to treat.
'We are better in the fight against game addiction'
He said there are few experts in Turkey working on Internet and game addiction. "There are also centers, like the Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital and two private hospitals, working on the issue," he said.
Emphasizing that Turkey is on the same level as other countries in the world in the treatment of game addiction, Arıcak said: "There are only one or two treatment centers in the U.K. When we look at the state level in the U.S., they are also very few compared to other clinics. Japan, South Korea and China are the countries that take the issue most seriously and run many treatment centers.
They are more serious on the issue. We do not see a big difference in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Turkey, in terms of proportionality.
In fact, the Green Crescent is making great efforts on the issue. I think we are better off than some European countries in the fight against game addiction."
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