World Health Organization Classifies 'Gaming Disorder' as Disease

Published: May 26, 2019 8:41 PM /


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The World Health Organization, who meets yearly at their World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, has officially classified 'Gaming Disorder' as a disease.

Per the WHO, a Gaming Disorder falls under their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and has been characterized as a disorder due to "addictive behaviors," which also includes hallucinogens, medications and other controlled substances that can either become addictive, through psychoactive changes or through repetitive behavior. Specifically for gaming, (6C51) the WHO stated that a pattern of "persistent or recurrent gaming behavior, which may be online or offline" can qualify as a disorder through three major criteria, which are as follows:

  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. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
Despite the three major points added to ICD-11, parameters for determining someone with the disorder are still fairly vague. "The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent," the ICD-11 states. "The gaming behavior 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." The criteria for what constitutes a diagnosis, it seems, is left into the hands of a healthcare professional.

Reaction by the gaming industry was swift towards the WHO. A rare joint statement spearheaded by the ESA, IGEA, The ESAC, K-Games, and other international bodies, has rebuked the claims by the WHO, and have urged them to reconsider the classification.

“The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts." reads the statement. "‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”

The WHO proposed a draft to include Gaming as a disorder in 2018, with the vote to add it to the list of disorders official over this past weekend. As of this time, the WHO has made no announcements or plans for a revision to ICD-11 in regards to gaming.

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| Staff Writer

A longtime player of games, creator of worlds, and teacher of minds. Robert has worked many positions over the years, from college professor to education… More about Robert