International Proposal Aims To Make Hardcore Gaming A Health Disorder

A new proposal in the ICD-11 categorization for the World Health Organization wants to add hardcore gaming to the list as a potential health risk and mental disease. The ICD-11 stands for the International Classification of Diseases.

The ICD-11 beta draft lists “Gaming Disorder” under the “Mental or behavioral disorder” section, under title 6D71, classifying it alongside schizophrenia, cocaine addiction, opiate addiction, alcoholism, MDMA use and gambling addiction, amongst others.  It states on the WHO international website

“Gaming disorder is manifested by a persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (i.e., ‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) characterised by an impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities and continuation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Technically, due to the amount of practice and time required to play video games, this would make all professional e-sports competitors mentally diseased, if we were going by the ICD-11 proposal of how they label “Gaming disorder” a health risk.

This was accompanied by factors that could perpetuate the “Gaming disorder”, such as “Hazardous gaming”, where they state on the site

“Hazardous gaming refers to a pattern of gaming, either online or offline, that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual. The increased risk may be from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviours associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these”

The research attached to how these conclusions about hardcore gaming were reached isn’t properly clarified. In fact, there’s no real long-term research studies to back up claims that hardcore gaming is a mental health risk.

Sad Gamers

Moreover, 26 scholars wrote a rebuttal in an open letter to the WHO that you can read over on Research Gate. They essentially explain…

“The empirical basis for a Gaming Disorder proposal, such as in the new ICD-11, suffers from fundamental issues. Our main concerns are the low quality of the research base, the fact that the current operationalization leans too heavily on substance use and gambling criteria, and the lack of consensus on symptomatology and assessment of problematic gaming.”

The scholars protest the inclusion of “Gaming disorder” in the ICD-11 proposal, which could have seriously adverse effects on the gaming industry, including increased regulation and prohibitory measures put into place, similar to what happened in South Korea when video games were labeled as one of the “four evils” along with alcoholism, gambling, and drug addiction. Lots of government regulation hampered the growth of industrial enterprise in South Korea, despite the consumer market still being on the rise.

The open letter makes this exact point, stating…

“The act of formalizing this disorder, even as a proposal, has negative medical, scientific, public-health, societal and human rights fallout that should be considered. Of particular concern are moral panics around the harm of video gaming.”

This comes shortly after various lobbyist groups have been trying to get new sanctions implemented regarding females and sexualization being depicted in video games, something that activists Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian took to the United Nations, resulting in the U.N., attempting to pressure Japan to censor anime and video games made within the region and exported globally. Japan declined, as reported by Niche Gamer.

Attempting to make institutional categorizations on an entertainment medium based on “feelings” as opposed to hard facts is not something that reputable scholars and academics appreciate. Hence, the scholar rebuttal further states…

“Furthermore, the proposed categories are likely to be met with significant skepticism and controversy by both the scholarly community and the general public, doing harm to the reputation of the WHO and the medical community more generally. This would dramatically reduce the utility of such a diagnosis, in particular as it is not grounded in a proper evidence base. There is no substantial difference between gaming and most other forms of entertainment, and pathologizing one form of entertainment opens the door to diagnoses involving sport, dancing, eating, sex, work, exercise, gardening, etc, potentially leading to a saturation of behavioral disorders.”

The deadline to consider “Gaming disorder” as a mental health disease in ICD-11 is March 30th, 2017.

(Thanks for the news tip(s) Professor Ferguson & anons)


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

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