By Mark E. Shaw
View the original posting of this article at the Biblical Counseling Coalition on June 24, 2019.
Reposted with permission.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially voted on May 25, 2019, to include “gaming disorder” in its most recent edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Excessive video gaming is now a disease and termed an “addiction.” Think about that last sentence for a moment: an outward behavior has now been deemed an internal disease. Wow. But I am not surprised because the world’s system has been diseasing behaviors since at least the 1930’s with the advent of A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Calling video gaming a disease, and ultimately any discussion of addiction, fuels lots of conversation and sometimes emotionally charged opinions across America. National Public Radio announced the decision in an online article.  The author also mentioned the 2018 Pew research statistics as high as “97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of girls play games on some kind of device.”  A financial website mentions the economics of video gaming, estimating that Epic Games, the makers of the very popular free online game, Fortnite, made at least $1 billion dollars (perhaps more) last year and has a valuation of $15 billion now.  On a side note, if you are unaware of how the everyday American is commenting on this very divisive issue and on addiction in general, check out this pop culture blog post (including some profane comments that follow in the discussion).  Yes, friends, addiction is a hot topic.
This is going to be (if not already is) a money making “disease” for those in the mental health and pharmaceutical industry as they seek to “help” concerned parents of their now diseased children.
The World’s “Cure” for the Diseasing of Behavior
The “help” offered to parents will be godless counseling and psychotropic medications that numb kids and create dependence, side effects, and other attending problems. That may sound like strong language at first but that is the way the diseasing of behaviors goes, unfortunately. The secular psychological community can only offer medications and talk therapy to its “patients” as it treats these problems as a medical problem rather than a heart-desire problem.
The Heart of the Problem
In 2008, I published a booklet called Hope and Help for Video Game, TV, and Internet “Addiction” trying to warn our culture about the dangers of living in a virtual world to the neglect of reality. Love of control, escape from reality, and pleasure seeking are some motives I discuss in the booklet. Video gaming is not always sinful, but just as Jesus taught us about not just murder but anger, and about not just adultery, but lust, in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:21-30, God is always looking at the heart behind our actions.
What is your heart motivation behind playing video games? Those motives might reveal a heart seeking to escape a drab, real-life existence, preferring to live in a fantasy world of one’s own concoction. In my booklet, I taught about someone’s very sad experience with online gaming: “One man created an imaginary persona, got an imaginary job, met an imaginary female, married her in the imaginary “virtual” internet world, and ended up divorcing his real wife several months later.” That description is clearly a sin of commission as are the increased aggressive thoughts and behaviors acted out in real life as a transgression of one of God’s laws on innocent persons by teenagers after playing video games excessively.  Watching violence on tv can be influential upon young people but the participatory nature of violence in video gaming is particularly impacting our youth according to this article.
The Not-So-Obvious Sins of Omission
My concern, however, is not just the sins of commission but the sins of omission prevalent with video gaming. “Not being or doing what God requires” is how sins of omission are defined in the children’s catechism,  and can include, “failing to love one’s wife as Christ loved the Church, failing to honor one’s husband, not serving one another, not loving one another, not parenting and teaching one’s children, and not working hard at one’s job (or schooling) as unto the Lord.”  Not always easily detectable in the beginning, these sins of omission can be cumulative and manifest in a greater way down the proverbial road of neglect. Ultimately, the problem lies within one’s heart motivations. So medication and godless talk therapy is simply inadequate because it will fail to lead to confession, repentance, transformation, and genuine heart change that glorifies Christ. Proverbs 28:13 states: Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. I love the eternal and Kingdom focused aspects of biblical counseling because our pinpointed discussions with those struggling with sin provide opportunities for God’s people to confess and forsake sin.
Biblical Hope and Help
These new labels for disease must not intimidate, influence, or tempt believers to think like the culture surrounding them. Biblical culture says we should think differently. We are not hopeless because we know the Holy Spirit is still at work in the hearts of believers so that repentance and change is truly possible. This fact inspires us to call sin “sin” and to lead unbelievers to repentance as they are awakened to their sinful heart desires and to the holiness of Christ.
If you succumb to cultural standards and the WHO’s new ways of constructing diseases, you will miss opportunities to gently share the love of God because what I have labeled previously as the victim mentality will prevail. In contrast, the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50 became acutely aware of her sin and the holiness of Christ. She responded in repentance, faith, and worship receiving the forgiveness of Christ. Jesus said to her in verse 50b: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Your mission as a biblical counselor as you represent the body of Christ is the same: call the sinner to repentance and faith in Christ.
Questions for Reflection
How can you gently, lovingly call people in your sphere of influence to repentance who are failing to love God and others well because of a video gaming habit? What are ways you can reach out to those around you to be more engaged relationally than distracted by technology on their cell phones and devices? What are some ways parents are unwittingly encouraging a mentality of entitlement to entertainment and amusement from very early stages of the child’s development?
 Anya Kamenetz, “Is ‘Gaming Disorder’ An Illness? WHO Says Yes, Adding It To Its List Of Diseases,” last modified May 28, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/05/28/727585904/is-gaming-disorder-an-illness-the-who-says-yes-adding-it-to-its-list-of-diseases.
 Andrew Perrin, “5 Facts about Americans and Video Games,” last modified September 18, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/17/5-facts-about-americans-and-video-games/.
 Julia Glum, “How Does Fortnite Make Money? All the Ways the Free Video Game Cashes in on Its 200 Million Players,” last modified January 15, 2019, http://money.com/money/5502637/how-fortnite-makes-money/.
 Jamie Harrington, “Video Game Addiction is Now Officially a Mental Health Disorder,” Totally the Bomb (blog), accessed May 30, 2019, https://totallythebomb.com/video-game-addiction-is-now-officially-a-mental-health-disorder.
 Mark Shaw, Hope and Help for Video Game, TV, and Internet “Addiction,” (Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing, 2008), p.1.
 Karen E. Dill, “Violent Video Games can Increase Aggression,” last modified April 23, 2000, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/04/video-games.
 “Catechism for Young Children,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, accessed May 30, 2019, https://reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=https://reformed.org/documents/cat_for_young_children.html.
 Mark Shaw, Hope and Help for Video Game, TV, and Internet “Addiction,” (Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing, 2008), p.7.