WHO names excessive gaming a “disease”

Gaming addiction is an officially recognised disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and will be referred to as such by medical institutions worldwide by 2022. The disorder encompasses debilitating gaming behavior inclusive of impaired gaming control, increased priority for gaming over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite losses in-game. The WHO reasons this behaviour pattern must be severe enough to result in functioning impairments evident for over 12 months to be properly diagnosed, report agencies.

However, the games industry has unanimously brushed off the decision and proposed further research be conducted first.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) claims WHO’s account of ‘Gaming disorder’ was not based off sufficiently robust evidence and should be re-examined before being included into the 11thedition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11); the ICD-11 will be passed as a global guideline at the World Health Assembly. Various game industry representatives have called on the WHO in support of the re-examination.

Stanley Pierre-Louis, ESA’s Head has said that continued conversation and education is needed on the subject as this can help the WHO avoid rushed action or mistakes that could take years to correct.

Currently, South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) is opposed to classifying gaming addiction as a disease – the ministry and South Korea’s Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) have jointly argued that game addiction in young people involves more psychosocial factors like stress, social support and parental behaviour than time spent gaming.

Pierre-Louis has added: “Leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying ‘Gaming Disorder’ creates a risk of misdiagnosis for patients who most need help – this means billions of video game players around the world.”

Kang Gyeong-seok, who oversees games at KOCCA, said that naming excessive game time as a disease only serves as an extreme restriction on the gaming industry.The South Korean Ministry of Health plans to set up a consultative body to discuss how to deal with the WHO’s decision.

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