Gaming disorder officially added to the WHO’s list of diseases

Gaming disorder is now recognised as an addictive behaviour disorder on the World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

Under the ICD-11, gaming disorder is grouped under three umbrellas: predominantly online, predominantly offline and unspecified. Generally speaking, each category contains the categorisations of an addictive behaviour disorder. The ICD-11 says gaming disorder is manifested by the following:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  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. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

In response, representatives from video game industry bodies across the world — including Australia and New Zealand’s IGEA alongside those from the USA, Canada, South Korea, South Africa and Brazil — have spoken out against the classification.

“There is significant debate among medical and professionals about today’s WHO action. We are concerned they reached their conclusion without the consensus of the academic community. The consequences of today’s action could be far-reaching, unintended, and to the detriment of those in need of genuine help,” a representative speaking for the global game industry associates said in a statement.

“We encourage and support healthy game play by providing information and tools, such as parental controls, that empower billions of people around the world to manage their play to ensure it remains enjoyable and enriching. As with all good things in life, moderation is key and that finding the right balance is an essential part of safe and sensible play.”

Update: The IGEA’s Ron Curry sat down with Stevivor to discuss the matter at hand.

“IGEA, alongside our international counterparts in the video game community, does not support the inclusion of gaming disorder in the IDC-11,” Curry began. “Numerous mental health experts, social scientists and academics from research centres and universities, including the University of Sydney, have published journal articles questioning the WHO’s decision.

“In Australia, IGEA works with families and the community to encourage and support healthy gaming habits. We run programs on helping parents understand how to use the parental control features that can be found in all of the major platforms. IGEA also works with government, retailer and the broader video games industry to ensure we have the greatest possible consistency in classification categories to enable parents and gamers to make informed decisions about the content they or their children are exposed to.

“Video games can be a valuable tool that can generate real-life health outcomes, and IGEA supports the important work Australian developers carry out in this field. IGEA also recognises that mental or behavioural health issues may stem from external factors beyond video games. IGEA encourages policy makers at all levels to boost public investments in mental and behavioural health.”

What do you make of the World Health Organisation’s assessment?

This article may contain affiliate links, meaning we could earn a small commission if you click-through and make a purchase. Stevivor is an independent outlet and our journalism is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.

About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.