The World Health Organization has officially adopted a revision to its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) to include “Gaming disorder,” leading to yet another round of protest and criticism from gaming industry representatives.
As we’ve been covering since 2017, the WHO classifies the disorder as a “mental, behavioral, or neurodevelopmental disorder” and describes it as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.” It adds that people afflicted by the disorder “may show ‘impaired control over gaming,’ ‘increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities,’ and ‘continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.'”
The WHO’s consideration of the classification has been met with alarm and pushback throughout the last two years 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 scholars 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, suggesting the adoption has more to do with politics than science or health.
In response to the WHO’s adoption of this new revisions this week, several gaming-industry representatives “in Europe and seven other nations” released a joint statement in which they beckoned the WHO to reconsider its decision to include gaming disorder in the ICD-11: “The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts,” the statement reads, adding that “‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.” As Polygon notes, the WHO’s ICD “is not law, nor does it have the force of it,” but it is nevertheless “greatly influential in how professionals and policy makers study and propose treatment or intervention in public health matters.”