Hooked on video gaming: How much is too much?
If you count the hours Julian Macaraeg spends gaming on his computer, at times it’s comparable to a full time job.
The 29-year-old says some weeks he’ll game for 20 hours, streaming his playing on a platform called Twitch.
Other weeks, it’s a lot more.
"I'll do about 80 to 100. It really depends on how much time I have during the week," he said.
While streaming he’ll interact with his subscribers and give them advice on playing his game of choice, Counter-Strike.
"It's pretty fast paced so it always keeps me intrigued; it's always my go to game."
Macaraeg stops short of calling gaming an addiction.
"I can stop whenever I want. If I was addicted to it I wouldn't be going to work today," he said, laughing.
But for others, like Cam Adair, addiction is the exact word he would use to describe his relationship with video games.
"I ended dropping out of high school not once but twice, never graduated, and while all my friends were off to college I was actually living in my parent’s basement, gaming up to 16 hours a day," Adair told CTV News from Houston, Texas over Skype.
Adair is originally from Calgary. He said he was addicted to gaming for more than 10 years, a habit he kicked himself. In the process, he started Game Quitters, an online resource for others looking for support to put the controller down for good.
He said he’s had users tell him it’s hard to find professional help, and Adair hopes a new classification will help change that.
Later this year the World Health Organization is expected to add gaming disorder to the International Classification of Diseases, making it a diagnosable health condition.
The draft criteria for a diagnosis states the behavior pattern must be serious enough ‘to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.’
It also points out gaming disorder affects a small proportion of people who engage in gaming.
Studies used by treatment programs, like Game Quitters, show around 10 per cent of gamers experience problematic use.
"I actually don't believe that it hurts gamers as a whole. I think it actually helps people now that there's a very specific criteria, that if you meet that criteria, and you want help, then you deserve to get it. And if you don't meet that criteria than you can continue to game in peace — there's no problem," said Adair.
Winnipeg clinical psychologist Michael Ellery says some experts argue this designation is happening too early.
"I am always a bit concerned when we try to over apply the label of addiction to things because we don't have a great definition of it to begin with, and to lump more things into it we just end up muddying the waters further, about what it is we are talking about," Ellery said.
But he understands why there's a push for a definition.
"Putting a label on it makes it actionable, and I think that's the impatience. It's why people want a label for things. But when it comes to having a good scientific definition of it, we don't have it yet and science moves a lot more slowly than people want."
Daniel Blair is a part of the majority of gamers who play regularly without it becoming a problem.
He loves gaming so much, he made a career out of it. His company Bitspace Development makes educational games using augmented and virtual reality technology.
He is also a father of two, and says when he games with his oldest daughter, he always makes sure there is a learning experience that can come from it.
"It makes more sense to me as a parent to think of the technology less as an, ‘oh don't bring this into the house,’ and more of, ‘ok well how can we embrace it and make it into a positive experience.’"
Macaraeg says he's always had set-boundaries when it comes to gaming.
"I do have my responsibilities. I got to go to work, I’ve got to make money, I’ve got to feed myself somehow," he said.
He added his time streaming his gaming online has helped him overcome social anxiety, not create it.
"Being in front of the camera and people seeing me for who I am and me talking to these people, it helped me open up and just get over the fact that I was feeling a little bit different."