Video game industry groups across the globe reject WHO’s ‘gaming disorder’ classification

As we noted yesterday, the World Health Organization has gone ahead with the inclusion of “gaming disorder” in the publication of its most recent edition of its disease classification manual, in spite of heavy criticism from independent academics as well as admittedly biased trade organizations. In fact, a group of those organizations – representing the video game publishing industry in the USA, South Africa, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and 10 countries in western and northern Europe – submitted their own statement on WHO’s decision, once again noting the potential for “moral panic” and “abuse of diagnosis” following the unjustified classification. The most compelling argument remains the scientific one:

“There is strong disagreement among experts on the inclusion of video gaming in the ICD-11 list, and the issue has been heavily debated since 2016 when 36 internationally renowned and respected mental health experts, leading social scientists and academics from research centers and universities – including Oxford University, Johns Hopkins University, Stockholm University and The University of Sydney – opposed the inclusion in an Open Debate paper,” the group writes, pointing out that in the intervening two years, WHO’s second proposal all but ignored those researchers, prompting a second paper from academics that “alerts on the weak evidence base, stressing that the ‘burden of evidence and the clinical utility should be extremely high, because there is a genuine risk of abuse of diagnoses.'”

The letter further notes that the American Psychiatric Association found insufficient evidence to include video game addiction in its own manual several years ago. More recently, the American Psychological Association “called on the WHO not to include video game addiction”; it also cited tendencies toward “moral panic” and insufficiently conclusive and robust evidence as its justification:

“We can discern no clear reason why video games are being singled out for a disorder rather than a general ‘behavioral addiction’ category if the concern were truly regarding clinical access for those with problem behaviors. Thus, an obsessive focus of the WHO on VGA would appear to us to be a response to moral panic (e.g., Cohen, 1972; Ben-Yahuda, 2009), one which in turn is likely to fuel more moral panic, including miscommunications that game playing can be compared to substance abuse.”

Which incidentally is exactly what happened in our comments yesterday. Imagine how it’ll go elsewhere, among people who aren’t familiar with gaming. Actually, you don’t have to imagine: They’re already doing it.

Check out yesterday’s piece for a longer rundown of academic criticism of WHO’s move.

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84 Comments on "Video game industry groups across the globe reject WHO’s ‘gaming disorder’ classification"

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Valen Sinclair
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Valen Sinclair

Well, the headline is kind of a “no duh” situation, of course they are going to reject it…even if it’s 100% true. I personally think it is. I know people, and have people on my Steam friends list, who are utterly addicted to games.

Here’s an example. One guy “telecommutes” and he’s online and in game all day…while “working.” Current hours played the last 2 weeks: 120.0 hours. Almost 10 hours a day, when he should be working. When evening comes and his family comes home he gets off to hide it.

I know many people like this, they have to get into a game every day, to do a pointless daily, to get that carrot, to push the button in the Skinner Box. I can honestly say I was addicted to WOW when it came out, but I started observing my behavior, and when it got to the point where I couldn’t log off to have dinner with my wife (Hey honey, can you bring me something to eat!?) I made a change. So I did learn something from playing so many hours of WOW. I do not let video games control me anymore. I don’t let developers entice me into useless mechanics (grind X, to open access to grind Y, so you can grind Z and get the ZYX of Awesomeness Level 1, now grind magic coins to level it to level 100 so you can exchange it for a ZYX of Epic Awesomeness Level 1 and start over until you die, lose your job, or lose your family! Good times!!). That’s not gaming, that’s nonsense.

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kalech

I think such OCD-esque behaviour isn’t really connected specifically to videogames, though. If you are that easily addicted by an activity, it’s a mental health problem that I imagine would appear no matter what your chosen hobby was. Such as people working out everyday to the point where they’re damaging their body, but they just can’t stop because they’re obsessed with it.

Posting a picture of people at a gaming conference, calling them hypnotized and acting as if EVERYONE who plays games are addicts is very scummy and makes it harder to find real cases of addiction. Not to mention how unseriously it’s treating an important matter such as mental health. Some people have made their whole life about their hobby, like some youtubers or stuff like beauty pageants, animal shows/breeding etc, yet they’re never scapegoated in the way that gaming is. No one shows up at a dog show and calls everyone addicted to dogs just because they’re all there looking at dogs.

Basically, there are addicts who are gamers, but not all gamers are addicts and that’s an important distinction to make that WHO has failed at.

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Cosmic Cleric

Very well said. /applause

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Travis In Canada

Out of curiosity did the WHO submit how many members involved in this study have actual gaming experience? Because if you are not a gamer than you really have no first hand experience in what you are talking about. And for the record that Observer post is ridicules you could take a picture of people sitting in traffic and say something similar straight up media click bait. Posting non sense comments or articles for no other reason than to get clicks.

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Stiqman

Yeah, and cigarette companies rejected the claim tobacco smoking caused cancer. It’s worse than useless to listen to anything an entire industry has to say about the safety of their own product. Doesn’t matter what side of the issue you’re on, or if there is some sliver of truth supporting either side. Industry voices are unreliable in the worst possible way when speaking to their own interests.

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Roger Melly

People can develop an addiction to anything but there always underlying reasons why they do so . After playing mmo’s for many years I think I’ve seen my fair share of people who obviously have either mental or social problems .

That aside I have a friend who I met in mmo’s who suffers from a type of autism and he finds playing mmo’s and the social interaction they provide have also helped him improve his social interaction skills in real life . I also have known people who have various physical disabilities or health issues who are housebound who find it gives them virtual company .

I am certain gaming addiction is a real thing and given its probably affecting significant numbers of people it now warrants its own categorization and hopefully that will mean more help will be available now for them .

I know China has bootcamps for gaming and internet addicted youth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtQevsY3OYw it would be quite entertaining to see such a thing happen in the West . Imagine all those antisocial teens in WoW having to do push ups and 5 mile runs each day . It would be comedy gold .

hamblepants
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hamblepants

Addiction is real. Addiction to video games is real. I have it. And have to manage it.

The way this specific addiction affects people is worth understanding.

But it’s possible to get addicted to many activities, activities that are healthy when you do them a small or medium amount.

It’s possible to be addicted to chewing gum, or exercise, or trading sports cards, or building things.

I want people to focus on why people are doing the activities in ways and amounts that make them addictive. But that’s a lot harder. It means we need to slow the **** down on severely hurting and traumatising each other. And maybe we’re (humans) not yet as good at that as we could be.

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Cosmic Cleric

I want people to focus on why people are doing the activities in ways and amounts that make them addictive.

Maybe because they are up-front designed Skinner boxes, meant to addict you, and keep you paying?

We are at a moment here, where between Skinner type gameplay, and Vegas-style loot boxes, where we have caught the gaming industry with their hands in the “addiction” cookie jar.

They are desperate to generate more revenue, but know we gamers won’t tolerate price increases (our recreational funds are limited in this day and age), so they try what they can get away with.

hamblepants
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hamblepants

The caption for that linked Observer article-within-article makes the whole thing even more stupider-er.

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Bryan Correll

I myself am having trouble keeping up in video games because of mounting Snooker addiction.

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Ben Stone

Any addiction to gaming hardly warrants it’s own definition. Why is there no television addiction? Knitting addiction? Hunting addiction?

Just WHO trying to stay hip and explain why kids are playing Fortnight instead of sports.

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Stiqman

INAD, but off the top of my head I’d say its worth distinguishing because there are provable and repeatable unique physiological responses in our brains to electronic media. People can be obsessed with those other things too (or anything), but it wouldn’t be for the same reasons and thus would be treated differently. Proper treatment requires right diagnosis and right diagnosis requires the right data.

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Roger Melly

Actually Television addiction is a proposed disorder under review at the moment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_addiction .

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/in-excess/201701/excessive-knitting-and-addiction . It also appears there have been studies into knitting addiction .

That aside I think addictive behavior can happen in any activity so I am not sure singling one such activity out is that helpful . But maybe it is done so when the numbers of people have such an addiction it warrants a category of its own .

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Schmidt.Capela

IMHO there is a good reason to single out industry-controlled entertainment activities, such as gambling and gaming (and, yeah, TV): the industry has a vested interest in actually making their products addicting so their audience consumes more of it. You don’t have researchers and psychologists hired specifically to find ways of making knitting more addicting, but you do have such professionals hired to make gaming and TV more addicting.

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Stropp

How about job addiction?

So many poor poor people forced to spend 8 hours or more PER DAY sitting in a tiny windowless office or cubicle. Or worse, they have windows and have to endure working while seeing the world outside!

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Kevin McCaughey

Yes, they are called “Workaholics” (sic) ;)

possum440 .
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possum440 .

Anything that hurts the money income of any industry is never an issue or never a real problem. The drug, alcohol and gambling industries are rallying behind the devs as we read these articles.

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Bruno Brito

I’ll accept gaming as a disease, if and only if, for every console destroyed, we can also take a gun of an american citizen.

If E3 is done, so should be the NRA-TV.

These are my terms.

Edit: And if that picture is people hypnotized, i really have to take these “reporters” to a church, if they wanna see what real hypnotism and madness is.

I mean, i know people who don’t eat because of faith. I don’t eat because i play. If i am sick, are they too?

Valen Sinclair
Reader
Valen Sinclair

Yet most people aren’t addicted to guns (I own one, It mostly sits in the closet), and most people aren’t addicted to gaming. That’s a mighty broad brush you’re wielding…assuming all gamers are game addicts and all gun owners are gun addicts.

Utter rubbish.

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Roger Melly

I don’t think your terms are of any interest to anyone but yourself .

ernost
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ernost

I’ll accept gaming as a disease, if and only if, for every console destroyed, we can also take a gun of an american citizen.

That wouldn’t even make a dent in the number of guns.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/gun-ownership-country-us-legal-firearm-citizens-statistics-a8406941.html

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Bruno Brito

So, are you saying that Americans have an…would you say, hypnotic focus on weaponry? Something that would configure, according to WHO standards here set, as…an addiction?