Digital gaming was literally punched in the face by the World Health Organization (WHO) today. The WHO just held the 72nd World Health Assembly, and formally adopted ICD-11. ICD-11, also known as the “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.” The ICD-11, effective 2022, officially includes “Gaming Disorder” as an addictive behavior disorder.
Definitely a Definitions problem
Unflatteringly, the WHO has listed Gaming Disorder after Gambling Disorder in ICD-11. Now I’ll be the first to say that loot-boxes were, and are still generally a bad idea. A quick examination shows, however, that the WHO believes that gambling and gaming are virtually identical. The official definitions can be found here (and here) respectively, but these screenshots should tell you something: –
Gaming is not Gambling
Now everyone in the game development industry knows that the loot boxes were a really, really bad idea. There’s no questioning that at this point. But let’s hope that’s not a contributing factor as to why gaming and gambling share a near identical definition according to ICD-11 and the WHO. But there is no doubt those who are thinking that is exactly how the WHO came to put gaming and gambling in the same category.
Gambling is not Gaming.
The WHO’s ICD-11 defines gaming disorder as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.” Their definition also goes on to detail an “impaired control over gaming” and “increasing priority given to gaming” over other life interests and activities and the “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrences of negative consequences.”
The definition frankly leaves a great deal to be desired. It is literally a copy-paste of the definition of gambling addiction with a word replacement. The current definition just does not stand up to any kind of scrutiny. Based on the above definition any form of employment, homework, or housework could qualify over the course of 12 months.
Continued Protests Continue to be Ignored
Representatives of the digital games industry in Europe and seven nations have called the WHO to re-examine the decision regarding a gaming disorder and its inclusion into ICD-11. The Entertainment Software Association also pushed back last year as well, stating that the inclusion of a “gaming disorder” “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder.” Unfortunately, no one at the WHO seems to be listening….
It’s not Law, but its Influential
The ICD is not legally binding but it has a great influence on how professionals, clinicians, and policymakers view, study and propose treatments and intervention in public health matters. With such a vague definition, coupled with a lack of research to determine a causal relationship simply means that more research is required.
But research is a repetitive task, that will be a high priority, that will involve doing the same thing repeatedly over the course of more than 12 months…like a gaming disorder.