The World Health Organisation has officially recognised excessive compulsive gaming as a disorder.
In the latest version of its regularly updated International Classification of Diseases document, it includes gaming disorder, which is: “Characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 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.”
In other words, if excessive gaming is having a continual and sustained negative effect on the rest of your life, then you’re suffering from gaming disorder. The definition of the disorder in the ICD goes on to say: “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 games industry is not hugely pleased by the recognition of gaming disorder. In a joint statement issued by a number of games industry bodies including the Entertainment Software Association and the European Games Developer Federation, it said: “In view of the publication by the WHO of the so-called ICD-11 list, organisations representing video game publishers and developers across the world would like to express their concern: “Video games 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 recognised. 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 statement continued: “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.”
There’s no question that games can offer therapeutic benefits, but equally, few would dispute that they can also lead to an unhealthy level of addiction. The beef between the industry and the WHO over whether gaming disorder is a legitimate complaint will undoubtedly rumble on. But in the meantime, enjoy your gaming responsibly.