In brief: This week will see the World Health Organization (WHO) decide if video game addiction is to become an officially recognized mental health disorder. Health professionals and the gaming industry are opposed to the idea.

Back in June last year, the WHO made the surprising decision to include ‘gaming disorder’ in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) for 2018 following its inclusion in the draft document. This week, experts attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva will vote on whether to approve the classification.

ICD-11 defines gaming disorder as:

  • Impaired control over gaming (e.g. onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context).
  • Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities.
  • Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

The document adds that someone suffering from gaming disorder has a behavioural pattern that negatively affects their personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

Both the medical profession and gaming industry are opposed to the inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD-11. "We believe that continued conversation and education is needed before any classification is finalised. In fact, leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying 'Gaming Disorder' creates a risk of misdiagnosis for patients who most need help," said Entertainment Software Association president, Stanley Pierre-Louis. "It's our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct.”

Gaming addiction has come under the spotlight more than ever over the last few years, helped in no small part by the popularity of games such as Fortnite, which has been demonized for allegedly causing addictive traits among young people. Should gaming addiction become an officially recognized disease, the medium's image could take another blow.