As of this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) has posited ‘gaming addiction’ as its own bona-fide mental disorder. But even though “persistent or recurring gaming behaviour” can have a negative or damaging impact, naming so-called ‘gaming disorder’ as an illness is one that raises many problematic questions. True, gaming seems to be a draw for many people seeking escape from real life, and a considerable number of these people will therefore prioritise their lives in-game. But is it that compulsion that makes people ill, in and of itself? That seems a dangerous misjudgement, and insensitive to those who know gaming as salvation from their existing issues and worries.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie’s self-proclaimed “elite NEET” Moriko Morioka has never been able to find satisfaction in a professional lifestyle. For her, being a working adult was synonymous with isolation, alone in her office well into the night, and coming home exhausted to begin the whole depressing cycle over again. The only hope and purpose for her was online gaming, but by the time we’re introduced to her it’s been months since she last logged in. Work was a wall between her and the one place she felt at home and accepted. So she quit, like turning a light back on in her tiny world, tired to the point of tears.
Western gamers have told their own stories of losing and quitting jobs over their believed addiction to gaming. Kotaku’s Mike Fahey resigned from his job at Fastsigns in 2001 “because I was tired of making excuses for being late, and I just wanted to play EverQuest”. But there are cases in which the deeper-seated reasons behind such dependence are apparent in the written experiences of the subject. “I was quite angry with my parents for being away so much”, Andrew Woods recalls for The Telegraph, bought an Xbox to keep him entertained through their regular absences. “Games like FIFA and Call of Duty became a great way of escaping from life.”
Moriko could consider herself blameless beside certain women who became addicted to games. Rebecca Christie was imprisoned for 25 years after allowing her daughter to starve to death, so engrossed was Christie in World of Warcraft. When VICE spoke to Patricia, a 69-year-old recovered WoW addict, she said “I wanted to shut out real life totally. I just wanted to climb in the game and stay there”.