World Health Organization Officially Declared “Gaming Disorder” a Disease


Over this past weekend, the World Health Organization officially included “Gaming Disorder” as part of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). The 11th Revision will be put into full effect January 1, 2022. According to the WHO, Gaming Disorder is characterized as:

“… a pattern of gaming behavior, online or offline, characterized by impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context), increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

The WHO announced their consideration of adding Gaming Disorder to the list in January 2018. When ICD-11 was released to the public later that year, many were dismayed at the inclusion of “gaming behavior” as a new form of substance abuse. Recognizing a slippery slope when they saw it, gamers were less than accepting, to put it politely, of their hobby being seen as a mental health problem. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), the leading voice for the video games industry in the US, released a statement, speaking to Gamasutra at the time, calling the WHO’s decision one that “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues.”

Video game Associations across the world, including The ESA, ESA Canada, IGEA (Australia and New Zealand), ISFE (Europe), K Games (South Korea), and UKIE (United Kingdom), released a global statement expressing their uneasiness at the new classification. The full statement follows,

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.

We encourage and support healthy game play by providing information and tools, such as parental controls, that empower billions of people around the world to manage their play to ensure it remains enjoyable and enriching. As with all good things in life, moderation is key and that finding the right balance is an essential part of safe and sensible play.

Now that the WHO have made it official, we will have to wait and see exactly what comes of this, good or bad. January 1, 2022 is when the ICD-11 will go into effect in full, so it’ll be a pretty long wait. In that time, I hope the WHO will seek true video game veterans. Any of the aforementioned groups around the globe, as well as organizations such as Take This, can contribute far more than some of the “experts” the WHO has already consulted. Let’s hope things don’t get worse before they get better.

What do you think of the WHO’s decision? Let us know in the PS Nation Forums or on Twitter using #AskPSNation.

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