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World Health Organisation recognises 'gaming disorder' as disease

First draft of upcoming compendium revision, if approved, warns of "significant impairment" in personal, family and social life

The World Health Organisation has launched the beta of its latest International Compendium of Diseases revision, and currently includes a section on video games addiction.

'Gaming disorder', according to the first draft of this document, 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."

The listing continues: "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."

There is also a listing for 'hazardous gaming' where the player's gaming pattern "appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual" - perhaps from the amount of time spent on this activity, or the neglect of other activities.

'Gaming disorder' is listed within the section of 'disorders due to additictive behaviours', which falls within mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders, while 'hazardous gaming' is classified under problems associated with health behaviours.

It should be noted that this is a draft, has not yet been approved by WHO, and will be updated on a daily basis before the revision is made final and released later in 2018.

The debate as to whether video games are truly addictive has been running for years, and if WHO includes these entries in the final revision, it will offer more weight to the argument that they can be.

Of more interest will be whether medical professionals are able to use this to build case studies of those who suffer and how the signs might be better identified.

[UPDATE]: In response, the Entertainment Software Association trade group released a statement downplaying the WHO's concerns about addiction to video games:

"Just like avid sports fans and consumers of all forms of engaging entertainment, gamers are passionate and dedicated with their time. Having captivated gamers for more than four decades, more than 2 billion people around the world enjoy video games. The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the WHO to reverse direction on its proposed action."

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was