Is gaming addiction a thing worthy of its own classification? The World Health Organization is thinking about saying yes in its update of the International Classification of Diseases. The Electronic Software Association, predictably, says heck no. Now, the Higher Education Video Game Alliance has weighed in with a big no too, expressing “dismay” at the WHO’s stated intentions and suggesting that the classification won’t actually “combat cases of abuse rooted in individual behavior” but will “stigmatize a pastime that billions of players enjoy without issue around the world” and “warp continued research.”
“We do not support WHO in this classification scheme in the strongest possible terms,” the group’s press release says, suggesting classifications amount to “jumping to premature conclusions” and willful “scapegoating.”
“We’ve watched as games are repeatedly blamed in today’s world for violence, childhood obesity, failures in educational policy, and a host of other contemporary issues, despite both a lack of evidence and careful consideration of other, often far more powerful, systemic forces that contribute to societal behavior. Games are commonly referred to as ‘addictive’ despite numerous conflicting studies and a clear lack of consensus from the scientific and medical communities.”
“While we strongly support the notion of responsible design, community engagement, and engaged citizenship on behalf of both the games community, the game development industry, and the scholarly and academic community studying both these media forms and their effects, we find very little scholarly evidence to support the classification as proposed. Instead, this effort seeks to create a distinction between engagement with this form of media and all other consumption where one may not exist (e.g., binge watching and other consumption patterns). Moreover, it confuses the context and terminology between ‘gaming’, which commonly refers to gambling, and the playing of digital video games. Perhaps most importantly, this classification proposes no prevention or treatment options.”
HEVGA’s stated mission is to “create a platform for higher education leaders which will underscore the cultural, scientific, and economic importance of video game programs in colleges and universities.”
As previously covered, multiple experts have already pointed out the flaws in the classification, noting that the American Psychological Association does not recognize gaming disorder as an addiction, that existing research does not support the conclusion, and that more research is badly needed before the WHO’s conclusion should be taken seriously.
We’ve covered the subject of online games and internet addiction at length over the last few years; this piece by MOP’s Andrew Ross is worth a look if you’re interested in an overview of modern research on the topic.