One of last year’s big stories for the gaming industry was the decision by the World Health Organization to include the brand-new “gaming disorder” classification in the publication of its most recent edition of its disease classification manual.
Here’s how WHO defines this disorder: “Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming; 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
If that sounds vague – like the sort of thing where you could swap the word “gaming” for just about anything – then welcome to the conversation. The move was met with alarm and pushback in 2018 from multiple groups across the industry. Some of them, like the ESA, UKIE, and HEVGA, are deeply involved in and propped up by the video game industry, so their criticism came as no surprise. But there was also considerable skepticism from academics and journalists, who have noted incomplete research in the field, suggesting that academics still do not agree on what exactly constitutes gaming disorder, never mind the clinicians who will be expected to diagnose and treat such a condition. GIbiz even ran a piece pointing out the weak evidence offered by WHO for the classification and exposing the group’s admission that it’s under “enormous pressure” from Asian countries to legitimize the disorder.
Though WHO voted to include the disorder last year, it won’t actually take effect for another few years, so industry groups are still in discussions with WHO over its inclusion. According to a new piece on Reuters – capped off with a photo of a man dressed as a blood-soaked zombie intently playing Xbox One at a midnight event – the Entertainment Software Association met with the global group in December to air its complaints.
“It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct,” ESA boss Stanley Pierre-Louis reportedly said. The WHO noted another meeting is planned for 2019 but suggested that – Reuters’ quote here – “the dialogue did not imply collaboration with the games makers.”