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Video game industry expresses concerns over Gaming Disorder classification

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published its latest revision of the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) yesterday, containing its first definition of gaming disorder. This has caused a lot of upset throughout the video game industry, with international organisations banding together to release a statement against the recognised addiction.

“Video games across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognised,” reads the statement co-signed by UKIE, EGDF, ESA, ESAC, IESA, IGEA, ISFE, KGAMES and UBV&G.

“We are therefore concerned to see ‘gaming disorder' still contained in the latest version of the WHO's ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community. The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive.”

The statement hopes to make the WHO reconsider its proposed classification of gaming disorder when the final version of ICD-11 is released next year. “We understand that our industry and supporters around the world will continue raising their voices in opposition to this move and urge the WHO to avoid taking steps that would have unjustified implications for national health systems across the world.”

Generally, the existence of gaming disorder as a true addiction has been openly debated since 2016, with UKIE outlining in its FAQ concerning the condition that “36 internationally renowned and respected mental health experts, leading social scientists and academics from research centres and prestigious universities” opposed the official recognition of the disorder. This isn’t to dismiss the value of gaming disorder entirely, but to highlight the growing concern at moving forward without concrete evidence to support the connection between video games and true real life problems.

“We believe that understanding this population and the nature and severity of the problems they experience should be a focus area for future research,” reads the abstract of a paper titled ‘A weak scientific basis for gaming disorder: Let us err on the side of caution.' “However, moving from research construct to formal disorder requires a much stronger evidence base than we currently have. The burden of evidence and the clinical utility should be extremely high because there is a genuine risk of abuse of diagnoses.”

“We acknowledge there could be benefits to formalising gaming disorder, many of which were highlighted by colleagues in their commentaries, but we think they do not yet outweigh the wider societal and public health risks involved. Given the gravity of diagnostic classification and its wider societal impact, we urge our colleagues at the WHO to err on the side of caution for now and postpone the formalisation.”

KitGuru Says: While I will always agree that more research needs to be conducted, I personally don’t see the classification of an addiction to be all that damaging. In fact, I believe addiction can come in the form of anything that causes the participant to experience gratification. Do you feel that gaming disorder casts a bad stigma on players of video games or do you think it only affects a small portion of those that have lost control?

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