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.