I read a recent article indicating that the World Health Organization had recognized gaming addiction as a disorder. Decisions like this should bring fear to all tech organizations. As we strive to create compelling content, we run the risk that someone may become ‘addicted’ to our content in a way that negatively impacts their life. Websites like Facebook, Pinterest, Thingiverse, and others can easily become a time blackhole with an afternoon gone before you even realize it. Isn’t that what we want though? We want to attract users and keep their interest. But what happens when courts rule that the addiction that we caused created a negative financial impact on the user? Will content providers like Netflix be sued in class action lawsuits because people couldn’t stop binge watching the newest TV show? How far will this go? Will we have a future where employees who watch TV all day can’t be fired because they suffer a recognized disorder? Must we, as employers, provide reasonable accommodations for their disorder? How about social programs – will we be required to provide welfare because someone has become so ‘disabled’ that they can’t work?
When I was younger, I played a lot of games too. Hours spent playing The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and other Nintendo games; and even today I enjoy playing classic NES games. But gaming is only one part of my life. I enjoy reading, learning foreign languages, studying astronomy, playing board games, and so many other things. Gaming has never become an all consuming obsession in my life.
I am concerned to see how this will play out and what the ramifications may be, but I do know this – the future will be filled with people suffering from carpal tunnel and vision problems looking back on their life filled with the regret of having sold their dreams for a digital fantasy world that left them empty in the end. And we, as taxpayers and businesses will be left with the financial burden.