gaming controller

When Video Games Become a Mental Health Disorder

In Addiction, Articles, Culture, Life Issues, Mental Health, Social Issues by Kirk Giles

[In June 2018], the World Health Organization announced a new mental health condition known as “gaming disorder.”  According to this article from, This condition comes with three major characteristics:

  1. Gaming behaviour takes precedence over other activities to the extent that other activities are taken to the periphery.
  2. Impaired control of these behaviours.  When negative consequences occur, the behaviour continues or even escalates.
  3. The condition leads to significant distress and impairment in personal, family, social, educational, or occupational functioning.

Full disclosure – I enjoy video games.  I have always enjoyed them since playing Space Invaders on my Atari or Donkey Kong on ColecoVision (for those under 40 – look it up).  There is something about the adventure, challenge, and escape of video games that keeps me engaged.  Today, I primarily enjoy playing sports video games for the thrill of winning a championship.

Esports are exploding in popularity.  The big idea of Esports is to watch someone else play a sports video game.  In 2017, Esports had more than 258 million unique viewers.  In comparison, the National Football League had more than 204 million unique viewers in 2016. (source: USA Today, “Why Watch Other People Play Video Games?” January 12, 2018)

There was a time in my life when I played video games for long periods of time.  I started to realize something was wrong when I found myself throwing my video game controller at my television when I lost a game.  I would get angry and discouraged when I couldn’t defeat a level in a game, and this would carry over into my attitudes when the video game system was off.

Today, we find ourselves in a world where “gaming” can now be officially classified as a disorder.  I know for many people, you will find this attraction to video games very difficult to understand.  You may have a child or grandchild or friend who plays a lot of video games.  You may be someone who is a gamer.  I want to share with you a few principles I have had to use in building a healthy life related to video games.  Hopefully these can help you or someone you love.

1. Playing Video Games Is Not a Disorder

Video games are not the devil.  Yes, I know there are some games that are not appropriate – just like there are websites, books, and even relationships that are not appropriate.  If you like playing video games, it does not mean you have a disorder, it means you like playing video games – the same way some people like playing golf.

2. Is this controlling me or am I controlling it?

If I am building my schedule around playing a video game, or if I’m angry or depressed because of the results of a video game – then the game is controlling me.  This is a warning sign and you need to do something about it.  In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the Bible says “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”  It is very easy to become someone where the video game is mastering us instead of the other way around.

If the game is controlling you, it is likely you will need to create boundaries on how much time and when you will play games.  For some, you may even need to remove games from your life for a season so you can heal and rediscover life outside of gaming.

3. Who Needs Me?

Some people lose themselves in video games as a way of escaping the need to answer big questions like this one.  Here is what I want you to know – you are important to people around you.

Take a few minutes and write down a list of people in your life.  It may be family, friends, co-workers, fellow Christians, or others.  In their own way, these people need you.  You bring something of value to their life.  If you lose yourself in a video game to the point where you no longer have time for these people, then you are losing out and they are losing out on the gift of you.  In Philippians 2:3 we are taught to “consider others as more important than ourselves.”

4. Why am I Here?

There are people who find real adventure in video games.  It fulfills some need deep down inside to feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful.  You may not have had other people believe you can accomplish much more than defeating a video game.  I want you to know that you are here on this earth for more than winning the Stanley Cup on NHL18.  You have been created as a person with gifts and talents – a person made in the image of God.  You have a unique contribution to offer to the world and to bring life to others.


PlayStation has the motto of “Greatness Awaits.”  Jesus has a different idea of greatness.  He wants you to know a real greatness, and it is far more rewarding and valuable than the game you can’t turn off.  Video games may be causing you to pursue too low of a vision for your life.  You decide which vision you will pursue.

Enjoy playing games, but don’t let them replace the real life relationships and impact you are created to have in this world.

See also:

Kirk Giles
Kirk Giles is the President of Promise Keepers Canada | Impactus. However, his most important roles as a man are husband to Shannon and father to Carter, Joshua, Sydney and Samuel. He is also the author of The Seasons of Fatherhood.
Kirk Giles
Kirk Giles is the President of Promise Keepers Canada | Impactus. However, his most important roles as a man are husband to Shannon and father to Carter, Joshua, Sydney and Samuel. He is also the author of The Seasons of Fatherhood.