'Gaming disorder' - or an addiction to gaming - is now officially recognised as an illness by the World Health Organisation.
The UN body has previously already listed the condition in the eleventh revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) in January of last year. This week's congregation of the 194 members states at the 72nd World Health Assembly simply serves as the body rubber stamping ICD-11 and officiating the manual, which is set to go into effect starting January 1, 2022.
The WHO classifies gaming disorder under its list of addictive behaviours, and defines it as follows:
Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:
- impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
- 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 behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
Following the WHO's intention to classify an addiction to gaming as a disorder, it was met with backlash by the gaming industry and lobbying groups affiliated with it, which deemed the decision a 'rushed action' and brought forth contradicting evidence and studies on the matter. Bodies like the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) also touted the economic, political, creative and academic benefits of gaming in protesting the WHO's decision.
For its part, the WHO has decided to stick to its guns, and stated that the decision was "was based on reviews of available evidence and reflected the consensus of experts from different disciplines and regions."