ESA pushes back against World Health Organization’s gaming disorder classification

In case you missed it over the holiday break, but the World Health Organization announced it would be adding “gamer disorder” and “hazardous gaming” to the latest edition of its International Compendium of Diseases, a move many academics treated with skepticismAccording to WHO, “Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming; 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

The industry isn’t taking this classification lightly, with the Electronic Software Association predictably pushing back against the move and saying that it misrepresents a hobby billions enjoy.

“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive,” the ESA said in a statement. “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.”

As gaming science researcher Dr Rachel Kowert pointed out to us, the American Psychological Association does not formally recognize gaming addiction as an addiction, for good reason. “There is a large amount of research just now coming out questioning whether or not it is a distinctive behavioral addiction deserving of its own classification,” she told us, referring to recent journalism on the topic as “moral panic-y.”

Source: Gamasutra
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62 Comments on "ESA pushes back against World Health Organization’s gaming disorder classification"

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Zora

Isn’t the WHO that body of people repeating us every other year that we are all about to die horribly to some global epidemic/catastrophe hoping to illicit (often successfully) donations from our governments, which are traditionally very generous with tax money?

I somehow suspect anytime money are involved it’s about politics and agendas rather than any scientific or let alone health concerns. ESA are pushing their own, who’s agenda is WHO pushing?

Leontes
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Leontes

In direct reply to your question I’d like to add though, that there are those who would argue that the pharma lobby – to a significant degree US-based – very “generously donates” in answer to WHO pleas, as governments tend to drastically cut back on their support. Guess whose agenda might be at an advantage here…

Leontes
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Leontes

I would not know, who’s agenda they are pushing, I just know among other things they’re trying to coordinate health efforts worldwide. In Germany we are insofar tied to the WHO, as our healthcare system is closely bound to their regulations, and specifically to the ICD. If I want to treat anyone for anything and expect to get paid for it, I have to do so based on an ICD-10 (and in the future probably on an ICD-11) diagnosis. The diagnostic system is usually discussed and updated by a multinational committee of researchers, renowned professionals and healthcare representatives for the respective field of expertise (e.g. chapter 6/F : Mental and Behavioral Disorders) – I do not know the specifics here, so take this with a grain of salt, it’s been a while since I learned this. That said, I’m actually a fan of the DSM, but for us that is mostly relevant for research…

As far as I know (not sure, though), many a nation’s healthcare systems are bound to WHO policy – other than you guys in the US (you pretty much have your own thing for everything). It strikes me as somewhat strange, that the UN and its bodies are seen so …disconnected from the US, given the weight the USA carries in UN policies and politics.

Estranged
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Estranged

“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive,”

Don’t know how anyone can type that with a straight face.

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Peregrine Falcon

A study cited by the New York Times says that video games aren’t addictive. If you disagree please show your work.

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Melissa McDonald

I’m addicted to games. Therefore the New York Times is wrong.

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Utakata

I thought that when World Health Organization try to make Robert Mugabe their goodwill ambassador. I really hope they’re not as poor in judging things that can actually kill us. o.O

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jay

The only thing this does is add a billable diagnosis for therapists to the WHO’s database. People are making this out to be a much bigger issue than it really is. It was already part of the ISDN, which is the codes uses to bill insurance providers, and what is used to diagnose mental disorders. It has been in the ISDN for some time now, so this isn’t new.

The WHO is just trying to raise awareness of it.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

I’m not familiar with the ISDN. Googling it just shows stuff for the Integrated Services Digital Network. Did you mean ICD?

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jay

It’s just another variation of the DSM IV used to categorically diagnoses mental health disorders for billing and treatment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-IV_codes Is more commonly used, and also has a gaming addiction diagnosis.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

…but the DSM-IV is not only outdated, but doesn’t include a game disorder (even in the 2013 DSM-V) as anything beyond a subject in need of further study:

http://www.techaddiction.ca/internet-gaming-disorder-dsm-5.html

We’ve covered this in several editorials, book/research reviews, interviews with researchers in the field, and in the comments section. If you can give me the name of whatever the ISDN is, I could better understand this.

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Dread Quixadhal

When you go down this path, you can start calling EVERYTHING a mental health disorder. Anything that you enjoy can be addictive, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inherently addictive activity. A thing is addictive when your normal day-to-day activities are impaired by you not getting your “fix”.

Our brains are wired to reinforce pathways that generate pleasure, and make them more desirable. If you like coffee, your brain will become wired to remember the taste and smell of coffee, so you are more likely to want it again. That, alone, isn’t addiction. If you start refusing to do your work unless you have coffee, neglecting your kids and pets without it, or stealing to pay for it… that’s addiction.

We live in a generation that has taught people to deny taking personal responsibility for their own actions, and always look for someone else to blame for things. As a result, many people lack the willpower to step away from the game when they know they should. You could call THAT a mental disorder, but it’s one that can only be fixed by teaching our kids to be less like ourselves.

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MrNastyButler

Are video games addictive? I’d say yes and no really. I do agree that there are aspects about video games that can be addictive and companies can distill their products to make those features even more addictive. And that there is the problem. Companies play on aspects of games that can make them addictive.

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A Dad Supreme

Are video games addictive? I’d say yes and no really.

I think this adds up to a “I don’t know”.

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MrNastyButler

No, but I’m willing to let people interpret what they wish from it.

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Schmidt.Capela

If countries around the world start recognizing this proposed diagnostic it can spell doom to certain monetization strategies that explicitly aim to cause dependence in order to keep players playing and spending money. This could give legal cause to treat games featuring those as if they were gambling, potentially even including fines for any publisher that can’t prevent minors from playing said games.

It might also wreck havoc with marketing; where I live, for example, marketing of any substance known to cause dependence is heavily restricted (there’s an extensive list of things you can’t feature on alcoholic beverage advertisements, and advertisement of tobacco-based products is outright banned).

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’m cautiously skeptical. Playing video games has always been seen in a negative light. Always. Remembering that this is the World Health Organization, which conducted online peer review with the countries that participate in formulating the ICD-11, you could say that video gaming continues to have a bad rep around the world.

Compare “gaming disorder” to soccer or football fans. Is it not weird that people paint their faces, wear strange clothing, shout incoherently and attack others for differing loyalties? Violence at soccer games is well documented. Also well-documented is the rise in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday. Is “crazed sport fanatic” also in the ICD-11? That seems far more destructive and wide-spread than gaming disorder.

In short, video gaming doesn’t have the same place of honor in most societies that sport fanatic does. It is okay to be mindlessly belligerent about your sport team, even if specific acts of violence are against the law. Yet all three of the indicators for gaming and gambling used by the ICD (which are almost exactly the same) applies to fanatical sports behavior as well :

1) impaired control over sports watching;
2) increasing priority given to sports to the extent that sports takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
3) continuation or escalation of sport activities despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

Am I bashing sports? Nope. Just pointing out that if sports were viewed as negatively as video gaming always has been, being a sports fan could also be classified as a “disorder”.

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rafael12104

Well said! Thank you. And btw, I’m a sports fan.

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wonderrat

I always like to look back on that classic image of a 1950’s family sitting down to breakfast. The kids are eating toast and dad’s at the table with the newspaper. Perfect family.

Replace that newspaper with an iPhone. Now dad’s an asshole neglecting his kids.

Society is super arbitrary about what’s good and bad.

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A Dad Supreme

“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

Everything is potentially addictive to the right (or wrong) person. Even stealth lurking/reading or posting on a forum’s site every day. :P

It’s just that many of the possible, unlimited “addictions” are considered by most people to be stupid, “weird” or silly (hoarding cats/animals, pornography, tanning booths, home shopping buying, etc) so it’s not viewed as an addiction since it only deals with a couple hundred or thousand rather than millions.

Conversely, when you chuck in things like OCD or autistic behavior where someone might have a driven need to “finish” things (ala “The Accountant”) playing a game that can’t ever be “finished” (MMOs), that might seem like video games are addictive but really aren’t; they are just dangerous to that one person.

Unless an addiction to something puts someone else who doesn’t have one at mortal risk like alcoholism (drunk driving or stealing/robbing to buy drugs, etc), it’s generally written off as not worthy of inspection or study.

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Stephen Donohue

“Video games aren’t addictive!” screams an industry obsessed with lockboxes designed to prey on people with gambling addictions.

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A Dad Supreme

with lockboxes designed to prey on people with gambling addictions.

I doubt many people who have gambling addictions are spending their money on video games. They are more likely spending money on lottery tickets or going to casinos and such, not lockboxes.

I think game companies target people with OCD/completionist issues with lockbox sales more likely. They know those people want these things, and if they offered the item in the game free just from grinding, people would do that instead.

They cashed-in for them to have that need to “finish” a set or item look for cash with the possibility they might get it.

Fun fact: Now up to $415 million and $460 million respectively.

http://www.megamillions.com/
http://www.powerball.com/pb_home.asp

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KumiKaze

The problem isn’t the people who have gambling addictions and go to casinos, betting, etc. It’s the people that don’t know they have a gambling addiction because they haven’t been in a situation yet to know.

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A Dad Supreme

It’s the people that don’t know they have a gambling addiction because they haven’t been in a situation yet to know.

If I ran a company, I wouldn’t focus or worry about people who may or may not know themselves they have a gambling problem. That would be silly as a focus.

I mean, why worry about my hamburger stand selling burgers to obese people because they may or may not know that they have an eating problem?

What if they don’t have an eating problem but are naturally “big boned” or “thick” as we said back in the day?

What if they do have an eating problem but it’s not from my burgers, it’s predominantly from Italian and Mexican food and they just eat burgers once in awhile?

I’m selling hamburgers to anyone who wants to eat one, not “I’m not selling burgers to that guy because he might be addicted to food in general”.

Likewise, I don’t think a gaming company should worry/focus on people who might have gambling addictions from casinos and lotteries that play their games.

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rafael12104

ESA is full of it. What a crock of shit. Their concern for those who suffer from “real” social anxiety and depression is laughable.

ESA tacitly supports predatory business practices that make some games a gambling addiction. Might as well pay rent for an opium den.

ESA, stop being hypocrites and get your own house in order. Then, and only then, can you speak on what you think is trivial.