The Video Game Industry Calls BS On WHO ‘Gaming Disorder’ Diagnosis

The Video Game Industry Calls BS On WHO ‘Gaming Disorder’ Diagnosis
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The World Health Organization (WHO), the body of countries that gets together to support international healthcare initiatives, has updated The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). The ICD provides statistical data on various diseases. And, in the most recent version, ICD-11, the WHO has added ‘Gaming Disorder’ into its classification. And the gaming industry is not happy.

Representatives from the video game industry – including representatives from across Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, and Brazil – are asking the WHO to rethink this decision, citing the industry’s role in the development of emerging technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data analysis.

Basically, the industry argument boils down to the collective good of gaming outweighs the negative impacts.

An offical statement from Global Video Game Industry Associations says:

“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”.

At one level the gaming industry is right. A lot of good, including social interaction between players as well as many positive technical developments, have flowed from games development.

But most parents will attest to the challenges that come from prying kids away from games and there have been many cases where people have become so addicted to games that it has impacted their health.

As a parent of five kids ranging from primary to university age, I see how gaming can become addictive. Games are designed to be engaging and we have moved a long way from games merely being about play with complex plots and character development now part of a more cinematic approach.

And perhaps that’s the issue. Unlike movies and TV shows, which can be just as immersive, many games have much longer playing times and lead players to stay in gaming mode for longer.

But I don’t see the WHO nominating ‘Netflix disorder’ as a condition – and we all know people who love nothing better than procrastinating or avoiding some activity in order to binge a TV show.

The issue here seems to be that the WHO has identified a disorder and added it to a classification system without consulting the industry it affects according to the Global Video Game Industry Associations.

What do you think? Is the WHO right? Or has it overreacted?


  • WHO is simply identifying a clinical definition – it’s irrelevant whether the gaming industry does net good or bad. I don’t understand why WHO should consult with the gaming industry to do their job – the gaming industry isn’t a collection of medical experts, WHO is. One would equally not expect the gaming industry to define a game genre without consulting the WHO first.

    And WRT to @anteaters, sure, some parents might do that, but they’re the kind of parents that will find some excuse whether this one exists or not. I’m the parent of a 9yo who needs constant work to NOT spend his entire life playing games. When I read the first report of this move from WHO yesterday, including their definition of it (which is missing here…), I totally agreed with their definition. Note that it defines the disorder to include (paraphrased) ‘impact on social life, work, school’ etc. as part of the disorder. My first thought as a parent was not to use this as an excuse, but instead to show it to my 9yo and have him understand that he ticks every box in the definition EXCEPT for it having impact on his schooling, purely because we limit his gaming against his wishes. Maybe it’ll help him understand why we do limit his screen time…

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