Researchers say gaming disorder does not need its own classification

Young adult playing video games

Oxford researchers have announced the results of a new study, their findings indicate that they “do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right”.

This comes just months after the World Health Organisation recognised gaming disorder as an official illness, an announcement that even managed to hit mainstream news:

This latest study, run by the Oxford Internet Institute, gathered data from a thousand adolescents and their caregivers. The way that this study deviates from previous studies into gaming is that it also analysed and looked into the context around the subjects’ lives and their gaming habits.

Overall the study found the following four key findings:

  • Most adolescents played at least one internet-based game daily.
  • Less than half of daily online gamers reported symptoms of obsessive gaming.
  • Daily players were highly engaged, devoting an average of three hours a day to games.
  • There was little evidence that obsessive gaming significantly impacted adolescent outcomes.

That isn’t to say there aren’t dangers and issues associated with gaming but they are more likely to be symptoms of other needs of the subject not being met. As Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the study said: “variations in gaming experience are much more likely to be linked to whether adolescents’ basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social belonging are being met and if they are already experiencing wider functioning issues”.

This all, of course, goes with the caveat that more research is required. As Professor Andrew Przybylski goes on to say: “We need better data and the cooperation of video gaming companies if we are to get to the bottom of all this”.
For those wishing to get a bit more context and information, the full study – titled ‘Investigating the Motivational and Psychosocial Dynamics of Dysregulated Gaming: Evidence from a Preregistered Cohort Study’ by Professor Andrew Przybylski and Dr Netta Weinstein is published online here.