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W.H.O. wants to recognize video gaming addiction as mental health condition

(File photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - How much time your kids spend playing video games could impact their health. But there are other signs that experts say could make it an actual disorder.

In 2018, the World Health Organization wants to begin labeling video game addiction as a mental health condition, calling it "gaming disorder."

The WHO describes the disorder in part as a "persistent or recurrent" behavior pattern of "sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in functioning."

Joe Marino in Penfield says the decision doesn't shock him.

"It doesn't surprise me. It's definitely an addiction. I think it's warranted," said Marino. "Prior to it being my job, I could easily play eight hours a day," said Marino.

Marino says that was before he got paid to play. After it became his job, he says he'd play 12 or more hours in a day. But he had to cut back after his sedentary lifestyle took a toll on his body.

That's when he stopped "streaming," or playing video games for an audience for money. Before that, he says he came across plenty of fellow video gamers who were clearly addicted to gaming.

"I’ve seen many people, it’s obvious the reason they’re streaming is because they’re addicted to video games, and they can’t stop," said Marino.

Marino says he now plays around 2-3 hours a day, if he can't sleep. But he recognizes how easy it can be to keep on playing.

"It's very similar to gaming like at a casino; they make them very addictive on purpose," said Marino.

At video game store "Game Craze" in Webster, manager Silas Slocum thinks the WHO's designation isn't necessary.

"I agree that anything can be an addiction, but labeling one specific thing as a disorder, I think, is absurd," said Slocum.

Like Marino, Slocum says it's all about being able to control how much you're playing at a time, and not letting video games run your life.

Slocum believes video gaming has its upsides, too - aside from being a fun distraction.

"Everything in moderation is what the idea is. It can have educational benefits, it can have stress benefits," said Slocum.

Slocum says he had a lot of parents in his store this Christmas season, many buying new games for their kids.

He says they often ask for his opinion on games, but Slocum says they'll also ask him how much screen time is too much.

"I always tell them, it’s your own opinion. Like, ‘What do you think is good for your kids?’ Everything comes down to supervision," said Slocum.

Marino says he's recognized his son is developing a possible video game addiction, and he's trying to use his experience to show his son the potential dangers that come with excessive video gaming.

"It's right from the minute he gets home until he goes to bed, if I don't stop him," said Marino. "It's a lot of fighting back and forth."

The WHO's says the new entry on 'gaming disorder' only includes a clinical description and does not include prevention and treatment options.

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