The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) met with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Dec. 3, 2018 for its first “formal dialogue” on the WHO’s proposed recognition of “gaming disorder” as an addictive disease.
The meeting allowed both entities to discuss the WHO’s activity within the video game space and to educate the organization on the video game industry as a whole as it relates to “public health objectives.”
The WHO was debating said topic as early as June 2018, when it announced it would be making the decision to classify an addiction to video games as a disorder within the confines of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICD’s purpose is to help identify health patterns and statistics seen around the world and build a compendium of thousands of diseases to aid in treatment and further understanding important disorders.
“Meeting with the WHO enabled us to engage in conversations about the positive impact video games have on the more than 2.6 billion players worldwide,” said ESA acting president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis.
“We believe that continued conversation and education is needed before any classification is finalized. In fact, leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying ‘Gaming Disorder’ creates a risk of misdiagnosis for patients who most need help.”
The addition of gaming disorder to the ICD drew a massive amount of attention from the media, which the WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Use’s Dr. Shekhar Saxena denied was anything like a “sudden decision” at the time.
As defined by the ICD, gaming disorder is identified by seeing a pattern of consistent behavior where subjects demonstrate “impaired control” in terms of the “onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, [and] context” of the situation. It was classified as an addictive disease so worrying, in fact, that the subject would continue the same behaviors while also disregarding any negative consequences that might happen as a result, going so far as to ignore eating, sleeping, hygienic processes, or social relationships.
Currently, the WHO is set to present the new above-mentioned ICD at the World Health Assembly in May 2019, to then go into effect if adopted by the WHO’s members by Jan. 1, 2022. Countries may choose to implement classification and reporting ahead of this date, but it’s the date by which health professionals must begin reporting to the WHO in regard to this particular classification.