“Gaming Disorder”: Is it what fueled a man murdering his mother and a lethal swatting?



Credits: Brasil2


There seems to be a lot of news surrounding the gaming culture these days. First, we have the shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch who was at his mother’s house at the time a false call had been made, accusing Finch of having shot his father during an argument and was holding two more people hostage. According to the phone call placed by Tyler ‘SWAuTistic’ Barriss – a professional Swatter – had placed the fateful night that had led to the unlawful killing of an innocent father of two.

But Tyler Barriss’ incident isn’t the only one to come to light in recent days. While Barriss has made headlines for making a false alarm and being charged with involuntary manslaughter as well as interference with law enforcement. Along with the charges, Barriss has been charged with making a false alarm, all of his charges carrying a felony charge. The cause behind all of this? Call of Duty: WWII, but our recent incident and the game involved is unknown except for the few facts released in the Ceres, California incident.


Credits: Ceres Police Department

The latest incident comes from the breaking news that 28-year-old Matthew Nicholson has shot and killed his mother, 68-year-old Lydia Nicholson, after becoming angered while playing a video game (the title being withheld at this time), only to break his headset during a dispute with her. After the heated argument with his mother reached its climax, Nicholson went to the room where the gun had been located and fired multiple shots, one which was to his mothers head.

Fortunately for his father, Loren Nicholson, the gun would jam and a scuffle would ensue preventing him from shooting his father as well. According to reports from the Ceres Police Department, at least three shots had been fired after Nicholson became enraged while gaming. After having shot and killed his mother, Nicholson fled the scene and was apprehended by local law enforcement near a family members house and soon after charged with homicide and is currently being held without bail.

This incident could help fuel WHO’s push at classifying “Gaming Disorder” as a mental health disorder

Unfortunately for gamers though, this seemingly only adding more fire to a recent push by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify video game addiction as a serious mental disease that needs to be treated. Back in December, WHO had added a code for “gaming disorder” onto their beta draft of ICD-11 (International Classification Diseases) codebook, which you can view online.

In the WHO’s proposal, they define gaming disorder, which is hidden deep within a larger umbrella of disorders caused by behavioral or drug addiction. Just as they are described, gaming disorder is described as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that takes over one’s life – to the point they can hardly think of or do anything else – and can even cause negative social consequences. This can include ruining relationships, job prospects, or even their performance while in school. They even give this objective disorder a time period in which they feel it can be diagnosed – 12 months to be exact.

This new proposed code also includes a code for “hazardous gaming” such as the habits of “gaming, either online or offline that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual.” The WHO isn’t the only one to consider this to be a possible diagnosis and it’s been quite the hot topic in previous years, but never the hotter until as of recent with the events such as Barriss’ false claims of a hostage incident or that of Nicholson whom had shot his mother over a gaming headset and a video game.

But it is in recent years – starting in 2013 – that organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association had placed “Internet Gaming Disorder” on a list of conditions they will be looking into for possible future diagnosis’. In the 5th edition o their code book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, they state that “Internet Gaming Disorder” could be an official disorder in future versions of their codebook and could be a viable disorder if its existence is verified and if the necessity of treatment is possible.

But the bigger question that should be asked is simple: Did these two mean actually use games as a reason behind their motives or did these two men already have underlying problems?


[Credits: Sedgwick County Jail]

Gaming was not the root cause of what these two did. It just happens to be a coincidence that they are gamers.

Whether you want to blame games or not is completely subjective from one person to another. In many ways, it seems that games are easily attributed to what one person does to another in our current day in society. Unlike real mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or even psychosis; gaming addiction or “gaming disorder” as it’s being referred to these days, isn’t something tangible at this point.

While the controversy behind the disorder will become quite heated in the upcoming days, we can only truly wonder if the disorder will even be brought into existence. After all, the gaming industry back in 2016 was estimated to be worth an estimated $83.6 billion dollars, toppling that of movies, tv, and music. With the release of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, all within the past five years, we could very well see the gaming industry exceed the $100 billion mark within the next year or two.


[Credits: Activision]

If you take in what the sales for games are, it very well means that almost everyone is playing games in some form or another and it means that it will be even tougher for the government or even health organizations such as WHO to identify “Gaming Disorder” as a tangible disease. Due to how much the industry makes, it could easily be assumed that there are more than 42% of American’s alone are playing video games between 3-5 hours a day and it can be assumed that roughly 20-30% of American’s play between 6-10 hours a day.

But can we truly classify “Gaming Disorder” as something tangible? Just like food, sex, movies, music, tv, or sleeping; video games can be overdone as well. Unlike drug abuse or items with a “gratifying” experience, nearly everyone at some point binges on video games with no apparent side effects while those with underlying mental health issues could very well see side effects over time.

Mental health disorders remain unrecognized as underlying causes when reporting on incidents such as Tyler Barris who placed a fake hostage situation call that led to the death of an innocent man in another state or Andrew Finch who shot his mother over a broken headset after becoming enraged at a game.

The truth behind these two examples and the following one? There’s something else going on, just as there was with the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, who played ungodly amounts of DDR and according to reports, a game-themed* around the incident in which he partook in. There was something else going on in his head.


Credits: The Liverpool Echo

Unfortunately, in all these cases, video games were to blame since they’re an easy scapegoat.

Just as one would expect, we could see all of these incidents begin to form a much more troubling picture. The WHO and even the American Psychiatric Association will use these incidents to help prove that “gaming disorder” exists and they will certainly use it to help fuel their push for an official illness.

The downside to this? Gamers will almost all fall under this umbrella. Almost all of them will be viewed at with some form of scrutiny and could very well see themselves once more getting another negative outlook as a piece of global culture. As gaming continually grows more popular, so will the need for an official statement regarding gaming habits. Sadly, it doesn’t seem that if something does happen, that it will begin forming any good acknowledgment towards gaming as a hobby or gamers as members of society.

But it does bring to light one simple statement that the WHO and American Psychiatric Association need to consider before passing “gaming disorder” as a true diagnosis: It’s not a mental illness. Instead, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem and one that has remained undiagnosed throughout that person’s life and that in its own should be scrutinized before throwing millions of potential gamers into that very umbrella.

*Editor’s Note: Due to the focus of the game and what it’s about, we have left the name omitted for personal and professional reasons. Any inquiries regarding this matter will be followed by the statement we have made here regarding why we’ve omitted the name of the game played by the Sandy Hook shooter.

[Source: Ceres Police Department via The Washington Post]

About the Writer:


Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.


Leave a Reply