We Asked People Whether "Fortnite" Is Addictive
The World Health Organization just added "gaming disorder" to the list of diagnosable mental health conditions. We asked a psychiatrist what that means for Fortnite fans.
So Fortnite — a multi-platform video game where players have to build and fight to survive in a post-apocalyptic world — is everywhere.
The popularity of the game has brought a deluge of articles claiming the game is causing "addiction" in players, especially children.
This week, the World Health Organization added "gaming disorder" to its official list of diagnosable mental health conditions, which has only fueled discussion around the game and its possible downsides.
Gaming disorder, or essentially a video game addiction, is defined as a loss of control over gaming behavior, giving a game precedence over other interests and activities, and escalating usage of the game even when there are negative consequences.
To be diagnosed with gaming disorder, a person's behavior has to be so severe it impairs the ability to function in terms of school or work, or it affects family and personal relationships for at least 12 months.
It was added to the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases, which is an international standard for reporting diseases and conditions.
BuzzFeed News spoke to doctors at Gaming the Mind, a blog at the Royal College of Psychiatrists that is for people who have an interest in video games.
Dr. Sachin Shah, a member of the group, said diagnosing gaming addiction isn't as simple as most news stories make it seem. It has only very recently become a diagnosable condition in the UK, and still isn't in the US. (Although the American Psychiatric Association has listed some signs it might be a concern.)
"There's a pattern of behavior with the media, where a new game comes out and it produces panicked articles; you saw it with Pokémon Go," he said.
While there have been studies of gaming addiction, there is a lack of high-quality research, especially studies that involve face-to-face interviews and span a considerable amount of time. One 2016 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 0.3–1% of the population might qualify for an acute diagnosis of internet gaming disorder.
Shah also feels it's important that a diagnosis of gaming addiction be avoided if the nonstop gaming could be a symptom of something else, and believes a misdiagnosis could stigmatize people who play games to relax.
"Studies suggest people with gaming addiction often have other underlying problems. One worry I'd have: Would people be diagnosed with gaming disorder actually have other underlying issues? What if your kid is being bullied and they're actually making friends there?" he said.
For parents, he said it's important to pay attention to children and stay involved in whatever they do.
But this information may not be reassuring to self-described "Fortnite Parents." Facebook has several small groups dedicated to sharing advice about parenting children who play the game.
Michelle Orr, a 47-year-old mother of three from New Canaan, Connecticut, told BuzzFeed News that she believed her 14-year-old was addicted to the game, so she turned to Facebook for support.
Orr said she considered her son to have an "addiction" after observing his behavior with the game.
"They can’t stop. And when you take it away, they can become angry, enraged at times. And they can’t monitor their own use of it. Nor have a sense of how much time goes by while they are playing," she said. "Also, the game gives you an adrenaline rush when you are close to winning, so I figure that feeling is addictive."
Orr says she has limited her son's internet access to prevent him playing too much, and that this sort of thing is a common battle for parents these days. She also said her child's school has said that kids have been playing the game in class.
But she says her methods seem to be working, "My son was becoming a zombie. And looked like one, too. Until we limited the Wi-Fi."