Video Game Industry Protests ‘Gaming Disorder’ Classification

Video Game Industry Protests ‘Gaming Disorder’ Classification

Last December, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed that ‘Gaming Disorder’ be added as an addictive behavior to the ICD-11, the newest version of the International Classification of Diseases. A non-finalized version came out yesterday, and contains a concrete definition of the disorder. Many in the industry, however, are pushing back against the addition.

How is Gaming Disorder defined?

Gaming Disorder is listed under “disorders due to addictive behaviors” and is defined as follows:

…a pattern of gaming behavior (‘digital-gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

The draft also lists how it’s diagnosed:

The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

It should be noted that this version has not been finalized. The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) explains that the current draft can be amended up to the deadline of May 2019.

Who is against the inclusion?

Gaming Disorder’s inclusion was always controversial since its first proposal. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) openly refuted it twice this year. In response to the inclusion in the newest draft, multiple gaming organizations have released a statement. Co-signed by the ESA, ESAC, EGDF, IESA, IGEA, ISFE, KGames, and UBV&G, the statement reads:

Videogames across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognized. We are therefore concerned to see ‘gaming disorder’ still contained in the latest version of the WHO’s ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community. The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive.

We hope that the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before proposing inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ in the final version of ICD-11 to be endorsed next year. We understand that our industry and supporters around the world will continue raising their voices in opposition to this move and urge the WHO to avoid taking steps that would have unjustified implications for national health systems across the world.

In addition to this joint statement, others have spoken out. 36 mental health professionals released a paper last March opposing the WHO’s proposal. The paper is a follow-up to a 2016 paper made by the same group. The Society for Media Psychology and Technology also released a statement in March 2018 on the WHO’s proposal:

We can discern no clear reason why videogames are being singled out for a disorder rather than a general ‘behavioral addiction’ category if the concern were truly regarding clinical access for those with problem behaviors. Thus, an obsessive focus of the WHO on [videogame addiction] would appear to us to be a response to moral panic, one which in turn is likely to fuel more moral panic, including miscommunications that game playing can be compared to substance abuse.

For more information, PC Gamer has a good overview of who said what.

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