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New report questions World Heath Organisation's proposed 'gaming disorder' classification

Meanwhile, the global games industry's rejection of the WHO proposal intensifies

A new independent report opposes the World Health Organisation's proposal to add gaming addiction to its list of diseases.

It's being promoted by the global games industry, which rejects the WHO's gaming disorder classification. 22 international trade bodies now oppose the proposal, with the Brazilian Union of Games, Interactive Entertainment South Africa and Korea Association of Game Industry joining the likes of UKIE, ESA, and ISFE.

The WHO added 'gaming disorder' into its beta for this year's disease list, which is defined as "a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour" where the player may give video games priority over other aspects of life or continue playing for long periods "despite the occurrence of negative consequences."

UKIE has now promoted a new paper entitled A Weak Scientific Basis for Gaming Disorder: Let us err on the side of caution, which is due to appear in Journal of Behavioral Addictions. The paper features a number of scientists, researchers and mental health experts - including those from Oxford University, Johns Hopkins University, Stockholm University and the University of Sydney.

The report suggests that confusion remains over what gaming disorder actually is, and that the evidence of such a disorder is currently low. The report says: "Risk of abuse of a formalized new disorder that solely involves the behavior of playing video games - a stigmatized entertainment activity - can only expand the false positives issue in psychiatry.

"This expansion will likely have a psychological and societal cost, potential harming the well-being of our children. We understand the arguments for wanting a clinical disorder, but maintain that the clinical utility of the proposed diagnosis is still unclear and the evidence base is not yet good enough. In short, we believe this debate is worthwhile and that a case might be made for diagnostic formalization in the future, but currently it is premature."

It adds: "We would strongly encourage the WHO to err on the side of caution, halt further formalization of new gaming disorders and stimulate better research into the role that screen time plays in our lives."

The global games industry continues to argue that the educational, therapeutic and recreational value of games highlights that it is ultimately a beneficial pastime for the majority of players.

"Worldwide opposition to the WHO's controversial and unproven classification of 'Gaming Disorder' continues to grow," said Simon Little, CEO, Interactive Software Federation Europe. "The WHO's process lacks transparency, is deeply flawed, and lacks objective scientific support. We urge this process to be halted."

Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of UKIE, added: "It is clear that there remains significant opposition from the scientific community to the WHO's proposed position on a 'gaming disorder'. We join them and others from the global games sector in calling for the WHO to consider the evidence and concerns presented in this new paper and to stop the unnecessary inclusion of this classification." 

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who