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World Health Organization makes 'gaming disorder' a recognised illness

Classification to come into effect January 1, 2022

The 194 members of the World Health Organization have recognised 'gaming disorder' as an illness at the 72nd World Health Assembly today.

The WHO finalised the eleventh revision of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) in June last year, which included gaming disorder. The disorder is described as: 'a pattern of behaviour characterised 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 WHO stated at that time that: "For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months."

The illness was met with opposition by the global video games trade bodies, including the ESA, ISFE and UKIE, which highlighted contradictory research and statements on the subject. The argument from the trade bodies and its members was that more research needed to be done, and that gaming disorder was perhaps a symptom of a more serious underlying mental health issues.

The ESA went further, stating that the good video games do economically, creatively, politically, and in terms of education, health and a whole lot more, is put at risk by the the WHO's classification.

Despite the opposition, ICD-11 was agreed to be adopted at the World Health Assembly today. It will come into effect on January 1, 2022. The WHO says that the decision to include gaming disorder was based on reviews of available evidence and reflected the consensus of experts from different disciplines and regions.

The Organisation says that: "The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures."

Earlier this week, Microsoft spoke to GamesIndustry.biz about its own safety measures designed to protect children. The firm said it would look into measures on how it can help support older players, too.

Member States of the WHO noted that ICD-11 has been produced in a transparent and collaborative manner

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Latest comments (4)

Nathan Richardsson Executive Producer A month ago
It seems our industry doesn't understand what a classification means. When established, all research worldwide can be tagged. It leads to a conclusion, not defines a conclusion. Sorry, we suck. At the same time we do veiled gambling and companies manipulate odds whereas they can't if you are regulated, we cry "oh so bad, kill me". In other words; "People don't spend massive time on games and we are allowed to manipulate the odds of chests". And people think that is ok.
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Tadhg Kelly Senior Partner Manager at Magic Leap, Self-EmplyedA month ago
I for one would like to see the cited evidence. I'm very dubious that gaming *specifically* is the source of a disorder rather than being one of many possible symptoms of underlying problems. I'm also very dubious that this conclusion has been reached in an unbiased fashion, as we have had to put up with prejudice and ignorance for our medium forever. I also worry that this will place ammunition in the hands of politicians who want to overly regulate our industry because of the woo-woo of "it's interactive so it must be worse than everything else".
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Franz Felsl Principal, Iocane Games LLC.30 days ago
I agree with you Tadhg Kelly. This classification is lumping a broad range of products into a tiny package that can provide legislators a way to more easily regulate an activity. Without a recognizable package for people to latch onto, politicians and others aren't going to make any money on compulsive disorders and mental illness, which IS the problem. Not having clear guidelines for identifying products properly is a more pressing issue.
Nathan Richardsson, you're bringing up a different problem that this classification isn't even trying to address. Gambling. It's got it's own classification and the video game industry needs to do a better job of not depending on gambling mechanics to generate revenue without notifying players of that intent. In other words, we should stop letting companies hide their agenda in the term "video game". The vast majority of video games are not gambling based models but they are still being lumped into that category. This helps them avoid being classified as gambling and drags video games as a platform deeper into a classification of derangement.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Franz Felsl on 28th May 2019 12:27am

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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch30 days ago
@Nathan Richardsson: You work at Jagex and your title, Runscape has the Treasure Hunter feature, which is just another monetised loot box system - https://www.runescape.com/treasure-hunter

It also has spinner, Squeal of Fortune which allows you to buy spins - https://runescape.fandom.com/wiki/Squeal_of_Fortune

So you can complain about this stuff all you like but you're being paid as a result of these systems. If you don't think these systems are okay, how do you justify personally benefiting from them?
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