The World Health Organization, the public health division of the United Nations, has released its newest list of classified diseases–and “gaming disorder” is included. A draft of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) describes this as being characterized by a “pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour” online or offline.
The description goes on to say that gaming disorders can include the following: “1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
People suffering from the so-called “gaming disorder” run the risk of “significant impairment” to their personal, family, social, education, and occupational lives, according to the WHO. The description goes on to say that “gaming disorder” can be a continuous condition or it can be episodic or recurrent in nature. For it to be suggested that a person has “gaming disorder,” they would display these behaviour patterns for a year or longer.
The WHO also has a listing for “hazardous gaming,” which the organisation says “refers to a pattern 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.”
It goes on to say: “The increased risk may be from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviours associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these. The pattern of gaming is often persists in spite of awareness of increased risk of harm to the individual or to others.”
Speaking to the BBC, technology addiction specialist Dr. Richard Graham said he welcomes the WHO’s decision to making “gaming disorder” a recognised disease. “It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously,” he said. At the same time, he said he worries that it could also lead to “confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the WHO’s decision to recognise gaming addition as a medical condition. The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the video game industry’s interests in Washington DC and organizes E3 every year, said the move “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues.”
“Just like avid sports fans and consumers of all forms of engaging entertainment, gamers are passionate and dedicated with their time,” the ESA said in a statement to Gamasutra. “Having captivated gamers for more than four decades, more than 2 billion people around the world enjoy video games.”
“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the WHO to reverse direction on its proposed action.”
The newest ICD draft is not yet finalized, so things could change regarding its content and language. We’ll report back with more details as they become available.