W.H.O. Formally Classifies Gaming Addiction As Condition, Faces Opposition

In their upcoming International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization will classify gaming addiction as a formal condition. The decision is based on a study released in December The compendium of medical conditions qualifies “gaming disorder” as “gaming behaviour leading to distress or significant impairment in functioning.” The compendium releases tomorrow, but not without controversy: an opposing paper by 36 experts will argue against the W.H.O.’s decision.

The classification has received both strong praise and damning condemnation. A New York Times article quotes psychology professors, mental health experts, recovering gaming addicts, and concerned parents as those thankful for the W.H.O.’s decision. However, a group of international academics and experts plan to publish a rebuttal to the move. Both groups do agree that not enough information exists on the subject, but disagree on the classification’s effects. The 36 dissenters argue that “moral panic…might increase,” citing the educational and recreational value of video games. Conversely, the pro-camp argues that “Any type of treatment is better than nothing” and hope that recognition will lead to further funding and treatment options. It should be noted that many individuals on both sides have financial ties to their cause.

gaming addiction

The methods to confronting gaming addiction and opinions on its existence vary from country to country. In 2011, South Korea enacted the Shutdown Law or Cinderella Law, prohibiting individuals under the age of 16 from online gaming between 10 PM and 6 AM. Perhaps due to their massive capital in gaming, the Korea Association of Game Industry opposes the classification. In the Netherlands, the Smith and Jones Centre offered treatment for gaming addiction, but stated that only about 10% of treatment seekers were actually addicted. The centre has since shut down.

Ironically, China has provided us with the most public display of gaming addiction treatment. The country classified internet addiction as a clinical disorder back in 2008 and opened up facilities to curb the issue. China’s relationship with gaming has spanned the spectrum from the tragic to the promising to the hilarious. I can assure you, from my five years of experience living in Fujian Province, that China has some addicted gamers. They play simply because they can, not for any real enjoyment. I would not argue that the percentage is noticeably higher than any other country. Regardless, China’s treatment of the condition is, um, less than ideal. I previously wrote about the documentary Web Junkie, which details the day-to-day in one such rehab facility. It’s more work camp than medical center. It’s hard to imagine the W.H.O.—or anyone—condoning that sort of treatment.

The W.H.O. admits that treatment options for gaming addiction are scarce, despite the American Psychiatric Association classifying it as a condition for further study in 2014. How the new classification impacts further studies will be worth monitoring, as will how gaming addicts are officially defined.

What say you, readers? How much gaming is too much? Is the W.H.O. moving too quickly on this issue? Are the dissenters downplaying a problem that threatens their bank accounts? Sound off in the comments, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more on this and many other stories!

Drew Weissman230 Posts

Drew is a freelance writer for DFTG. He's the former Managing Editor of Haogamers and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and The Paragon Journal. He also edited the novel Three Brightnesses and Artist Journey: Rachta Lin (2016 and 2017 editions).


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