Academics debate WHO ‘gaming disorder’ classification and global political implications


Remember how the World Health Organization is angling to classify gaming addiction as a “gaming disorder”? Researchers and self-regulatory bodies have been pushing back against the move in the US – and apparently in Europe too, as The Guardian reports this week that UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) has also said it’s concerned about “the inconclusive nature of the research” upon which the classification is based.

The publication spoke to a Ukie rep as well as multiple academics, one of whom was involved in the WHO committee and supports the classification, and one of whom maintains that research is simply incomplete. Both groups admit that the effect of “disordered gaming” isn’t as strong as gambling disorder itself, and scientists have yet to address why more people don’t succumb to its supposed lure (especially given that a third of the planet games). Comorbidity is also an issue: Is the person really addicted to gaming, or is she gaming because she’s suffering from depression or unable to walk?

Probably the most important part of The Guardian’s piece is the section on Asia; one paper says 10-15% of young people in some Asian countries are affected by the so-called gaming disorder, significantly more than in the west. In fact, the WHO has admitted it’s “been under enormous pressure, especially from Asian countries, to include” the classification. The Guardian indeed covered this before, as last year a group of 26 researchers opposed to the classification made clear their worries about putting politics before health:

“A diagnosis may be used to control and restrict children, which has already happened in parts of the world where children are forced into ‘gaming-addiction camps’ with military regimes designed to ‘treat’ them for their gaming problems, without any evidence of the efficacy of such treatment and followed by reports of physical and psychological abuse.”

Further reading:

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