Gaming addiction: Are we asking the right questions? | Science & Technology

Gaming addiction: Are we asking the right questions? | Science & Technology

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to include “gaming disorders” in its 11th revision of internationally recognised diseases.

This addiction is described by the WHO as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour” that may become so extensive that it “takes precedence over other life interests”.


It is quite a dystopian future where AI is used to trick us and convince us to use more money.

Dr Jamie Woodcock, researcher, Oxford Internet Institute

The announcement has been met by criticisms from within both the gaming industry and experts within the field of psychology, with counterclaims stating that the addiction outlines put forth by the WHO are simply not aligned with the nature of addiction. 

However, as those within gaming are still set to see billions of dollars roll into the industry this year, exclusive gaming addiction programmes are also providing healthcare providers and insurance companies with an unexpected niche now that gaming addiction is classed as a mental health disorder. 

But how does the digital industry keep consumers going back for more?

Oxford Internet Institute researcher, Dr Jamie Woodcock, says its all down to human psychology and “behaviour design” – but what does that say about the ethics of developments in gaming?

“It’s no surprise that these psychological aspects are being included, but one of the things we have to point to as being particularly problematic is  the use of gambling, or gambling-like aspects, in video games to get users hooked,” says Woodcock. 

“We need to ask questions about whether its right that these things are used to convince us to do things… this is the big question right now, how ethical is it?” continues Woodcock. “In a way, these kinds of platforms and these kinds of games can be very persuasive. But in a sense, for a company that’s making these products, of course they’re going to do this. There’s a long history of trying to make buying products from a particular company persuasive. What we have to do is have a discussion about how manipulative these companies can be, particularly when it involves money.”

While technology has always had the capacity to change the way we think, and perhaps even the way we act to a degree, the future of technology, and in particular the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), could provide an even more challenging predicament. 

“At present, artificial intelligence is being used in a number of new domains, looking over legal documents, medical uses and so on,” says Woodcock. “Psychology remains a difficult think to programme because people are contradictory and have conflicted emotions … the larger question should be not whether AI can be used to manipulate people but how AI can be used to benefit people.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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