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World Health Organization and ESA meet to discuss gaming disorder diagnosis

UPDATE: UKIE and ISFE also urged WHO to "reconsider the mounting evidence" during formal dialogue last month

ORIGINAL STORY 10/1/2019: The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the World Health Organziation (WHO) have revealed today that the two groups came together back in December of last year to discuss the WHO's inclusion last year of "gaming disorder" as an official addictive disorder.

The WHO made this official last June in its section of addictive disorders in the 11th International Classification of Diseases. The inclusion was met with criticism from across the gaming industry, with the ESA at the time saying it "recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder."

According to Reuters, the two groups met in Geneva last month to discuss the issue, exchange information, and share views on upcoming WHO activities related the industry and how gaming will play a role in those.

The ESA called "more conversation and education" before WHO classifications were finalized and took effect.

"It's our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct," said ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis. "The billions of video game players around the world who will be affected by an ICD-11 classification error deserve action based on meticulous research.

"As an industry we are committed to collaborating with stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, and parents to ensure best-in-class ratings, parental controls, and other tools help video game players and parents understand and manage healthy video game play."

The WHO has said another future meeting with the ESA was tentatively in the works.

UPDATE: British trade body UKIE has issued its own statement to GamesIndustry.biz about the industry dialogue it attended with the World Health Organisation back in December.

The group said: "In the UK, over 30 million people play games; with over 2 billion people worldwide enjoying games safely and sensibly. Leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying 'Gaming Disorder' creates a risk of misdiagnosis for those who most need help and any decision about including gaming disorder must therefore be based on robust and unequivocal evidence.

"We hope that through continued dialogue, with us and the wider scientific community, the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before the final version of ICD-11 is endorsed next year. We also hope that they can demonstrate a transparent and due process as this decision will have implications on national health systems across the world.

"The games industry takes its responsibility to players, particularly children, very seriously. We are committed to collaborating with stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, parents and carers, to ensure best practice in ratings, parental controls, and the wide range of tools that can be used to limit the time spent playing and promote health game play. We also work hard to let parents and carers know about how to play games safely and sensibly through resources such asaskaboutgames.com."

UPDATE 2: The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) was also in attendance and expressed its concern of the "lack of substantive evidence to justify this proposed classification, and by the lack of transparency in the classification process".

In a statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, managing director Simon Little said: "Classifying 'gaming disorder' under the mental health and addiction category of the ICD-11 list may well lead to abuse of diagnosis and misdiagnosis as such inclusion is not based on a high level of evidence, as would be required to formalise any other disorder."

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