WHO attempts to defend its proposed ‘gaming disorder’ classification

At the tail end of last year, we caught wind that the World Health Organization is planning on classifying gaming addiction as a “gaming disorder” its update of the International Classification of Diseases, which caused multiple academics, self-regulatory bodies, and education advocates to preemptively reject the plan, pointing out both the lack of research to justify the classification as well as the potential for harm.

“We do not support WHO in this classification scheme in the strongest possible terms,” the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA) wrote earlier this week, arguing the WHO is “jumping to premature conclusions” that will scapegoat and stigmatize gaming. The ESA flat-out called it reckless. An academic in games research whom we’ve consulted with in the past suggested to us that the news came off as “moral panic-y.”

But WHO appears to be sticking to its guns. GamesIndustry.biz spoke to a representative for WHO, who reportedly claimed to the publication that “there is increasing and well-documented evidence of clinical relevance of these conditions and increasing demand for treatment in different parts of the world.”

“Use of the internet, computers, smartphones and other electronic devices has dramatically increased over recent decades. While the increase is associated with clear benefit to users – for example, in real-time information exchange – health problems as a result of excessive use have also been documented. In a number of countries, the problem has become a significant public health concern.”

But as GIbiz also points out, GIbiz repeatedly asked for evidence to back up these claims, but WHO either didn’t provide them or provided links that do not sufficiently support the claims. We can surely presume full sources will be provided when the proposal moves from draft to final revision. Right? Right.

Worth pointing out is that the spokesperson’s note that “inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when making decisions on provision of health care and allocation of resources for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation” – which seems to imply that the classification is intended for specific countries that require WHO’s legitimization of an issue before spending money on health services relating to it.

We’ve covered the subject of online games and internet addiction at length over the last few years, including a look at modern research on the topic.

Source: GIbiz
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

66 Comments on "WHO attempts to defend its proposed ‘gaming disorder’ classification"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Grave Knight
Reader
Grave Knight

I’m just wondering if WHO hasn’t mistaken the symptom for the illness. I mean is this “gaming disorder” that much different than people who watch too much tv/movies? Is it probably caused by a psychological disorder like depression (though not necessarily depression)?

Reader
Utakata

That’s what I’ve been saying. I mean it would make more sense if they made the current POTUS a health disorder. Just saying. o.O

Source: https://kotaku.com/donald-trump-announces-successful-delivery-of-fictional-1821993977

Leontes
Reader
Leontes

Oh MOP, why, just why do you keep throwing bait for my smartass instincts to take over? I won’t bite this time. Not this time! Hrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnghmmmpff!

Reader
Patreon Donor
Veldan

Since I see this brought up a lot: being addicted to gaming, or to one particular game, does not need other underlying issues like depression or whatever. It’s easy to point at people who are gaming too much and say “oh but they have mental problems”, especially because everyone here games and it creates a convenient seperation between “us” and “them”. But it’s not true. Nothing is needed to get addicted to gaming, except addictive games. I say this as a former addict.

That Guy
Guest
That Guy

No one is responsible for anything anymore. There is ALWAYS an underlying issue to blame for the “doctors” to throw medications at.

possum440 .
Reader
possum440 .

Gamer’s with gaming addictions will never admit they have a problem. Like any other addict they will come up with a host of solutions or excuses as to why it isn’t so and they do not have an issue.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Dividion

The problem I see with this is if it’s classified as a medical condition, that could require tax-payer money to help these “gaming addicts”. Assuming a person’s condition is so severe that they don’t even have to go to work, then we may end up paying to support NEETs. I’d rather not. If you’re old enough to contribute to society without a _physical_ condition (or _dangerous_ mental condition) that prevents you from doing so, then you outta be out there doing that. This sounds like it has the potential to fall under a mental condition that would allow people to just be slackers and a drain on society.

Sure, gaming can be an addiction. Nearly anything can be. Overeating, cigarettes, drugs, even sex-addiction. I just don’t think you should be able to get an exemption because your doctor writes a note to your employer: “Please excuse Tim’s absence today. His guild took part in a raid last night, which took longer than expected, and he was unable to excuse himself early due to his gaming disorder. Sincerely, Dr. Pathetic Excuses”

The serious question is: How do you treat a gaming addiction when nearly any piece of technology with a screen can be used for gaming? There’s an anime on Crunchyroll called EVIL or LIVE. I’ve only watched the first couple episodes, and wasn’t a fan, but it had the premise of incarcerating young people with internet addictions (gaming/social media) to prevent their ability to feed their addictions. That would be another terrible taxpayer drain and probably wouldn’t be effective anyway. Gaming sites could put a quota on your gameplay, but those would be easy enough to get around simply by creating a new account. That basically leaves pharmaceuticals, which would probably need to put you in a vegetative state to prevent you from gaming. Once again that would keep you from being a productive member of society.

One solution is just to leave it to the parents and schools raise people to have the right priorities. If they become adults, and can’t pay their electric bills because they’re too busy gaming to get a job, then they won’t be gaming anymore, unless someone else is enabling them.

The best solution, which will probably never happen, would be to create jobs where a gaming addict would thrive. A lot of gaming is about problem-solving, so presenting certain gamers with real-world problems might yield some solutions to those problems, if presented correctly. (Think how they recruited the kid in Stargate Universe by having him play Stargate Worlds – before it was cancelled.)

Zeph
Reader
Zeph

Nevermind. Replied to the wrong person! -_-

Reader
Knox Harrington

WHO ELSE READ THE ARTICLE’S TITLE LIKE IT WAS A QUESTION AT FIRST?

Reader
rafael12104

Disappointed or falling asleep?

comment image

semugh
Reader
semugh

Reader
rafael12104

I love those. LOL!

Reader
Sorenthaz

I think it’s kind of worrying that “gaming addiction”or “gaming disorder” is becoming a thing when it isn’t an addiction/disorder in and of itself, but typically more of a symptom of something else.

For example folks with heavy anxiety/depression might plug a ton of hours into video games because that’s their escape from feeling like utter shit. It’s something to take their mind off of their problems and it’s a hell of a lot less self-destructive then falling into drug addiction/alcoholism or other coping attempts. Others simply enjoy video games as their hobby and dump their free time into it because why shouldn’t they?

I think it’s disingenuous and simply the result of an older generation refusing to understand younger ones and they’re basically trying to justify regulating/taxing digital games for no reason. To that same effect we might as well get all up in arms about TV addiction/disorders, smartphone usage, and probably find another reason to slap more taxes on cigarettes.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

It’s disingenuous to claim that the addiction itself isn’t real – it’s just a symptom of an underlying problem.

Reader
Sorenthaz

But the problem is that it’s putting the blame on video games for issues that are deeper than just “oh I like to play video games for several hours a day”.

Reader
theblackmage75

Gaming addiction might be a thing. But I find it very interesting that it has taken precedence over the far more pervasive and well-documented addictions to cellphones & social media. I couldn’t find any articles or statements from the WHO making provisions for treating that (but maybe I just missed them).

Reader
Leiloni

I agree and I think both are more common and have more widespread consequences.

Reader
bobfish

There are numerous clinics and centers in Europe and Asia that tread gaming addiction, its a real problem that has been identified, though many people remain dismissive of it.

Given the difficulty that depression for example has had in gaining traction around the world, I can only imagine that it will be decades before gaming addiction is accepted as a real thing everywhere.

Reader
Bannex

It’s important that gaming gets a disorder otherwise big pharma has nothing to push as an overpriced, under researched treatment.

On a side note I just saw an advertisement for a vitamin that “helps protect your eyes from blue light…”

Lol we’re fucking cattle.

Reader
2Ton Gamer

Please tell me that you understand what blue light is, right? It is a serious issue that is causing mascular degeneration and premature blindness.

Reader
Leiloni

Nothing definitive has been found yet about blue light beyond what we’ve known for years. Two things are old news, and that’s that 1) You should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, and 2) take frequent eye breaks when using computers to avoid eye strain. For the latter my eye doctor said the 20/20/20 rule works – every 20 minutes stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also other common sense things like sitting an appropriate distance away from the computer.

That’s all you really need to do to protect your eyes and none of it is new information. This “Blue light will cause macular degeneration” stuff is not at all conclusive. It’s irresponsible to scare people about something that even experts warn they don’t know enough about to make any conclusions.

Although if we’re talking about addictions here, spending less time on the phone and computer is healthy for a whole host of other reasons anyway.

Reader
Bannex

Please tell me you know what peer review is and have a peer reviewed study to back that up

Reader
bobfish

Are there drugs that deal with gambling addiction? Which is a similar disorder.

Reader
Stropp

Very likely there is, but not specifically targeted at gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction like many other forms happens because there are chemicals in the brain that give the addict a rush when they partake in the activity. For serious enough cases I would imagine that doctors would prescribe some kind of drug to inhibit the rush and help the addict change their behaviour.

Reader
Bannex

Will there be psychiatric order sets that deal with video game addictions when mom brings little Aidyn in to the doc following a 4 hour overwatch binge? There is now!

Please, try to think beyond disease/cure. Big pharma doesn’t want a cure, they want pseudosymptom management that requires long term treatment. Cures don’t make money.

Leontes
Reader
Leontes

I’m pretty sure this diagnosis isn’t much of an issue for the pharma industry. No friend of their agenda either, but this is stretching it a bit imho…

Reader
Bannex

Pretty sure it is. Diagnosis = code = insurance bill = money for pharma.

That’s glossing over a lot but you get the picture

Leontes
Reader
Leontes

You know, where I come from it is considered bad practice to use drugs to treat this kind of problem. We try to do things without pharmaceutics if it can be helped…

Reader
bobfish

The problem is, your theory only works for America. Big pharma isn’t an issue in many other countries, most in fact. And WHO is a world organisation, not an American one, it serves a global need.

Though I do agree that the solution to any medical or mental problem in America does appear to be to prescribe drugs. They don’t need WHO to classify gaming addiction as a disorder to be able to do that though, any psychologist could already do that with their own patients.

Reader
Leiloni

Doctor’s can’t diagnose you with something that doesn’t have an official diagnostic code. Sure they can generally say something like “I think you’re addicted to games”, but on your medical records, if it hasn’t officially been recognized in the US, they can’t put it there. They’d have to put something else down like depression or social anxiety or some addiction related disorder – whatever could possibly be relevant for any individual’s case.

I don’t know how other countries work – I assume in a similar manner. But doctor’s definitely can’t just make things up. You’re right that the WHO doesn’t control that, it’s more so the country specific organizations doctors are controlled by.

Leontes
Reader
Leontes

You are right, that we are bound to diagnostic codes in our treatment. However, bobfish has the right of it in pointing out, that we do not necessarily prescribe drugs for treatment. Depending on the specifics of the case, it is very possible to treat mental disorders such as depression, anxiety or addiction without medication. The decision of whether or not to use drugs in treatment is not to be taken lightly, and in a lot of cases it is even considered bad practice to do so.

Reader
Bannex

Until you realize that the physician handbook on psych disorders and their treatments is written and maintained by a panel of experts that approx 60% also sit on the boards of pharm companies.

Big pharma gonna have their fingers all over this.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Give it time.

Reader
Zora

Not sure what came of it but I seem to recall the chinese government introducing limits to the amount of time companies could allow for players to play online games per session many many years ago, possibly when blizzard was starting to distribute WoW in mainland china. Their “reasoning” was about the same lines of addiction-risk and, well lot of ideological drivel but hey it was the chinese government.

They most likely have considerable weight within UN agencies, so the WHO position over the entire subject might reflect that stance?

Reader
Sally Bowls

I have long maintained that the forces that want to hurt gaming, some deliberately some not, may have at least a good of a chance of using the “gaming addiction” attack as the lootboxes and “gambling addiction” attack. And my guess it is likely that if governments/ politicians attack gaming on one, they will do so for both.

Reader
Utakata

Unless they can demonstrate it has a hostile microbe involved, they should really stay away from this subject.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

That list goes far beyond that. Take gambling, for example; besides Compulsive Gambling being listed as a disorder, gambling is listed as a contributing factor in two other, different disorders, and is also listed as a potential health hazard.

Reader
Utakata

I get that, but you are missing my point…

Gaming is not a disease. Neither is gambling really. These are activities that can be reasonably be managed and balanced. And done so by many folks everyday with little or not detriment to their daily lives. You, myself and Mr. Don are likely fine examples of this. However, if they want associate underlying mental health issues that can cause addicted behaviors to these activities, they are welcome to do so. Declaring it as health issue in of itself is just ludicrous IMO and reeks of reefer madness.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Yeahh… gaming “addiction” is pretty much always a symptom of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Instead of working to raise more awareness for that junk and actually, y’know, help people get more help when a lot of folks struggle with that stuff, they’re just slapping labels on gaming because it means they can start getting $$$ off of it and it gives an excuse for the government to start intervening further in the gaming industry.

This pretty much seems to be the result of an older generation refusing to understand younger generations.

Reader
bobfish

Its a disorder not a disease, their classification system at the high doesn’t provide enough difference, but when you actually dive into the documentation it is clear there is a distinction that is made by them.

Reader
Utakata

Their claim is what at dispute here, not their distinction of it. I think it’s pretty clear what they mean.

Reader
TheDonDude

Why? WHO deals with all manner of health, including physical and mental.

Reader
TheDonDude

I don’t have a problem with WHO on this. They aren’t saying that everyone who games is an awful person. Just if you game to the point where it destroys your life.

Reader
Sorenthaz

If it’s at that point then gaming is simply a symptom of the real problem, which more often than not is some degree of clinical depression.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Veldan

That absolutely does not have to be the case. There is nothing needed, besides maybe boredom, for gaming to take over and be a threat to everything else in your life. I’m speaking out of experience here.

Reader
Leiloni

It’s far more than just boredom. For real addiction to be the case, the person has to seriously be lacking in self control which begs the question – what else is going on that’s causing them to behave that way. Skipping meals, showers, work/friends/appointments to the point where it starts affecting your life in a serious enough way to be called an addiction – is far more than just boredom. There’s some sort of mental health issues going on with a person that takes it that far.

Contrast that with someone who maybe is a college student with nothing to do over a summer and decides to game 8 hours a day. Sure that’s a lot, but assuming they can control themselves enough to sleep regularly, eat, and everything else, then that’s not an addiction in the clinical sense. Sure they should probably play less, but it’s not the type of serious medical condition we’re talking about. It’s just a standard “no-lifer” scenario – one which is often short-lived. People either grow out of that or life changes and once it does – they easily move on to more normal behaviors. Clearly that person wasn’t addicted.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Veldan

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned boredom. I did not mean that as a cause, but as a way of getting into it. You don’t start playing games a lot unless you first have free time and decide to spend it gaming. Also, growing out of it does not mean you weren’t addicted.

I was skipping on everything in my life except work (being in college, I worked Saturdays to have some sort of income). I was playing more than 8 hours a day (up to double that), and besides going to the store, eating and sleeping, I spent every minute playing. I knew I had to go to college and pass courses, because gaming all the time wasn’t sustainable, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I couldn’t make myself do anything else in a day but play. If that wasn’t addiction, I don’t know what is.

It naturally decayed, at some point. It lasted for about a year, after which I started playing less (a switch of games may have contributed), and gradually over the years all feelings of addiction have vanished. Nowadays, when a game tries to make me play more, I recognize it and am pushed away instead of sucked in.

Reader
Angel of Def

Ill listen to the WHO tell me its a disease about as fast as I’ll listen to the ESRB/HEVGA/ESA tell me it’s not. Both of these groups have no actual basis to say anything they are saying. One wants to sell you games, one wants to sell you health service. How about we just stop listening to people trying to sell us shit as credible institutions to listen to when discussing the safety or health affects of their products.

Reader
Sally Bowls

I don’t understand this. The WHO is a 7,000 person international organization that will turn 80 in April and has 194 member countries. I don’t think they really sell anything. I am not saying they are competent or agenda-free or bias-free. But health is certainly its purview.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Armsbend

They need to – the entire thing is making the organization seem ridiculous and ultimately a waste of time.

Cigarette smoking, which kills millions and millions every year – a choice. Gaming, which killed a few Korean dummies and snapperhead streamers over decades – treatable disease.

Stupid.

Reader
TheDonDude

Not sure I understand. I don’t think WHO has ever said that cigarettes are a-ok.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Funny things, cigarettes are included in the list of devices that can be used to assault others with smoke, fire, or flames, in the chapter titled “External causes of morbidity and mortality”.

Zeph
Reader
Zeph

I mean nicotine addiction is recognized by the WHO, so I don’t know what you’re on about.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Exposure to tobacco smoke is also classified as an environmental hazard by the WHO, together with things like radiation and water pollution. So it provides multiple venues to tackle smoking.

(This last one is likely part of the reason so many countries restrict where people can smoke. Where I live I believe it’s illegal to smoke in any enclosed public space, even if privately owned like stores and restaurants.)

Reader
Melissa McDonald

We have heard about Asian gamers keeling over dead after marathon sessions in “internet cafes”. Does anyone really doubt that gaming can be an obsession or addiction? That’s all the evidence I need right there. Plus my own experiences doing silly things like calling in sick just to play a bloody video game. (Let him without sin cast the first stone there.)

Reader
2Ton Gamer

Agreed. You don’t have to have something wrong or mental to flock to an addictive thing.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Here’s the thing: gaming addiction/obsession is often the result of depression or some other mental disorder. Trying to pawn gaming off as being its own dangerous entity on a category similar to alcoholism/drug addiction is ridiculous and ignores the deeper problems that lead to folks letting video games consume them. Also we might as well extend it to Internet addiction/obsession while we’re at it, and just completely ignore the “why’s” of it.

As for calling in sick to play games, that’s normal. People do the same thing for if they want to go see a movie or go watch a big event or go to something that’s happening during their work hours. Should we start labeling those things with disorder labels too?

Reader
Melissa McDonald

So alcohol and drug addictions don’t exist. They are just symptoms of being sad. By your rationale. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Reader
Sorenthaz

You’re comparing apples with oranges. Video games aren’t a substance that you ingest in some form to purposely mess with the chemicals in your brain or whatever.

Nice strawman though.

Zeph
Reader
Zeph

Agreed. I thought it was pretty much common knowledge that games can be addictive and that video game addicts are actual existing people and not unicorns.

Reader
Sorenthaz

“Video game addicts” are more like folks who are dealing with depression/anxiety/loneliness/other issues that encourage them to simply invest the majority of their time into the Internet/video games.

Apparently it isn’t common sense to think about the actual underlying causes and just demonize what we see in front of us.

Zeph
Reader
Zeph

I don’t disagree that there are underlying drivers in cases of addiction, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the actual dependence as a problem itself. Addressing someone’s depression/anxiety/etc. won’t necessarily magically cure a dependent behavior.

There’s no demonization going on, by the way. I love video games, I think they’re a fascinating and powerful art form. I also think they have addictive qualities that we’re better off learning about than dismissing.

Reader
Sorenthaz

By that logic though we should be focusing on TV and Internet addiction as well. Or really any other hobby/activity that can create addictive behaviors. People who want escapes will find anything to depend on. If you strip video games/Internet from them, it’ll be TV. If you strip TV, it’ll be books. If you strip books, it’ll be them lying in bed thinking all day long or drawing/writing/whatever else that can make them put aside IRL worries.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Armsbend

Not one that needs to be classified by the World Health Organization. It’s an excuse for people to not take control over their bad decisions.

wpDiscuz