Do All Video Gamers Have a Mental Disorder?


Do All Video Gamers Have a Mental Disorder?

Illustration: Palak Bansal

To everyone who was gifted an Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, or anything related to video games this Christmas, I’m sorry. What can be considered luck in 2017 will be regarded as misfortune by the time 2018 rolls around. The World Health Organisation has announced that excessive video gaming is going to be added to the list of mental disorders. While I’m not saying that skipping bathing for two days while grooming your virtual pet is the portrait of ideal mental health, there are issues with WHO’s identification of the people most likely to suffer from this disorder – boys from the age of 12 to 20.

I don’t belong to the aforementioned group, but I feel like they are being unfairly maligned. After all, video-game addicts come in all sizes, and each one parades their high scores as if they were Uber ratings. The Humans of the Gaming World include…

The Man-child

The man-child missed the WHO memo — the petulant, whiney adult who spends most of his time in the bedroom of his childhood and somehow has a graphics card that makes his neighbour’s kids jealous.

His room is dimly lit all through the day, possibly to obscure the wreckage of the person inhabiting it. But the man-child will tell you that he keeps out the light so that his CPU doesn’t overheat. He is most likely to react to WHO’s announcement with a long-winded explanation of how playing video games has actually turned him into a better person; it has improved his concentration, and given him lessons in history and mythology. The truth is, his hand-eye coordination has improved significantly, but it has not helped him unhook bras recently.

Old MacDonald

Old MacDonald could be a Mr or a Ms or a Mrs; the operative word here is “Old”.  This type of gamer flies against WHO’s conventions of age and gender by secretly using video games to combat their mid-life crises, because sports cars and plastic surgery are too expensive.

While not as involved as PC and console gamers, these aunties and uncles are ubiquitous: In buses, in trains, slowing down the escalator at the mall, as they chase Angry Birds, or Candy Crush obsessively. For them, WHO’s announcement is nothing but further ammunition to use against their kids, because the more time the kids spend studying, the more time they have to water their neighbour’s plants in Farmville.

The Poker Uncle

You could be forgiven for mistaking Poker Uncle as a non-gamer. Generally sporting a belt that’s straining to contain his girth and discussing real estate, he has secret identities under monikers like xAceofSpadesx and Fu11_F1u$h. In real life he’s probably a banker named Anil Kamte, but on these online poker sites, he’s James Bond in Casino Royale. Sometimes he may gamble away his next seven EMIs but he makes up for this with a cool cartoon avatar that sports a soul patch and shades.

The Pro

On the surface, the Pro and the Man-child can barely be told apart. Both display an incongruous obsession with games, but the only difference is that the Pro is actually good at them. The latter is that one friend in your group who is the sole consumer of Big Bang Theory merchandise in India and worships an idol of Raj Koothrappali.

WHO’s announcement is likely to hurt the Pro the most, as he has been honing his skills hoping to become an e-sports star. He is now on the fast track to being a dead-end IT professional with a mental disorder.

He should probably take heart, because he’s not the only sufferer. The WHO has not taken into account all the other games we play with one another, like stalking people on Facebook, ghosting one another on Tinder, and taking selfies. WHO might think that teenage boys are most likely to suffer from the excessive gaming disorder, but a quick look around you will tell you — in the immortal words of the Cheshire Cat — “We’re all mad here.”