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'Gaming disorder' officially recognized as a disease despite industry protests

'Gaming disorder' officially recognized as a disease despite industry protests

May 28, 2019 | By Chris Kerr

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized 'gaming disorder' as a disease, meaning it will be included in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

The group initially added 'gaming disorder' to first draft of the ICD-11 back in 2017, and finalized its place in the diagnostic manual a few months later. That version of the document has now been fully endorsed by the organization at an executive board meeting at the World Health Assembly, and will officially come into effect on January 1, 2022. 

It's notable news, with a number of games industry professionals and organizations having spoken out against the disorder's inclusion in the initial draft, even going so far as to implore the WHO to remove it before the final version of the ICD-11 was set in stone.

Voicing their concerns last year, a coalition of games industry trade bodies, including the Entertainment Software Association, claimed "the evidence for [gaming disorder's] inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive."

"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 recognized," explained the coalition.

"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 coalition also suggested that including the disorder would create  "unjustified implications for national health systems across the world," and asked its supporters to continue raising their voices against the move. For the time being, however, it looks like those protests have been disregarded. 

The finalized version of the ICD-11 has officially placed the disorder alongside 'gambling disorder,' both of which are classified as 'disorders due to addictive behaviors.' The full definition, pasted below, states that gaming disorder is an illness "characterized by a pattern of persistent of recurrent gaming behavior."

It also explains those persistent behaviors may be "continuous or episodic," and that symptoms would likely needed to have occurred for a period of at least 12 months before a diagnosis could be made.

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