The World Health Organization (WHO) has followed up on plans to include “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The condition falls under “disorders due to addictive behaviors,”and it is already meeting resistance from lobbyist groups within the gaming industry.

According to the WHO, “gaming disorder” is defined as “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 ICD-11 also instructs doctors how to diagnose the disorder. “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.”

The draft of the ICD-11 won’t be submitted for publication until May 2019, and its contents can be amended before then.

Gaming industry pushes back

Naturally, the video game industry went into full defensive mode over the news. Respective lobbyist groups, the ESA, ESAC, EGDF, IESA, IGEA, ISFE, K-GAMES, and UBV&G, all signed a joint statement condemning the recognition of “gaming disorder.”

“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.”

The ESA also published its own extension to the statement on its official Twitter page.

Is gaming disorder a thing?

Well, like anything, video games can be addictive if they are enjoyed to a certain extent. Nobody is saying that if you play a lot of video games, you’re addicted. Similarly to gambling, alcohol, and pornography, doing so much of something that it gets you fired from your job, loses you friends and family, and sucks away all your money is when it becomes a problem.

The video game industry obviously doesn’t want to have the same stigma attached to it as gambling, alcohol, and pornography, and this is the reason it is pushing back. They site psychologists from around the world who have problems with the classification as being too broad or an example of treating a symptom rather than digging deeper and missing an important anxiety or depression diagnosis.

However, it is also important not to cling to the lobbyist groups’ words. At the end of the day, like any lobbyist groups, they are here to protect the image and, more importantly, the profits of the companies they represent. If that means striking back at what could be a very serious mental condition, so be it.

And, it’s not like the WHO is some amateur group looking to cause noise by making this decision on the spot. It’s a huge organization of doctors who have classified diseases and disorders for over 70 years, much longer than gaming has been around. It too must have just as many, if not more, professionals who agree with the diagnosis than those who disagree. Otherwise, it would not have been considered.

Take it as it is. There are people who game non-stop, don’t leave their house, and are obviously addicted to the point where they need help. Maybe they aren’t depressed, aren’t anxious, and really just need to learn to control their gaming habits. My guess is a good doctor will be able to tell the difference between gaming disorder and a deeper underlying issue.

What’s also important is that gamers not get bent out of shape about this. There is no need to be offended by this. Just because gaming has the word “addiction” labeled to it doesn’t mean the whole thing is going to come crashing down or people will treat you like a drug addict for playing video games.

If you enjoy your video games in a healthy manner, like most gamers do, then this genuinely has zero effect on you at all.