Over the weekend, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to the list of recognized diseases. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, or ICD-11, classifies them under “disorders due to addictive behaviors” and says they are “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” where “gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities.”
Video game addiction is hotly debated by players, creators, and industry leaders alike. It can be difficult to navigate this conversation. For better or worse, this WHO decision will alter how this discussion is framed, as we begin to look at how interacting with new technologies impacts our mental health. I also don’t want this to be just one more argument lobbied against the gaming community, which is growing by leaps and bounds.
As esports seeks to legitimize itself and online gaming grows more massive, video games are becoming a meaningful part of a lot of people’s lives. That isn’t a bad thing. Science is even looking into how video games can alter our brain, and yes, it can be positive!
As always, I feel like the answer is everything in moderation (for the general population); not everyone who games will develop an illness, but we shouldn’t ignore that gaming can affect mental health or be afraid to classify it.
That being said, as Simon Little, managing director of The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz: “Classifying ‘gaming disorder’ under the mental health and addiction category of the ICD-11 list may well lead to abuse of diagnosis and misdiagnosis.” I certainly don’t want this swung about by parents like a stick or see people with unrelated mental health problems belittled or overlooked.
Do you think the WHO classification of “gaming disorders” is a positive step, or do you think this will just limit the conversation around gaming and mental health?