Games industry discusses gaming disorder with WHO in an effort to avoid mistakes

In June last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified gaming disorder as part of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) which met with considerable backlash from gamers and the games industry, alike. Fast forward half a year and it seems that WHO has had meetings with both the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the British trade body, UKIE in Geneva last month.

The decision by WHO to add gaming disorder to its list of health problems is the result of years “looking into the addictive nature of video games” with the decision set to be endorsed by governments in May. The UK initially responded to the new classification last year by opening an “Internet Addiction Clinic” in London, fully funded by the National Health Service (NHS) but if the endorsement goes through, it could see an impact on healthcare policy and insurance.

Another meeting between WHO and ESA has apparently been set for this year, according to via Reuters, with both parties hoping for “more conversation and education” before the classification is finalized. “It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct,” commented Stanley Pierre-Louis, head of the ESA.

UKIE gave its own statement, expressing concern that the classification of a gaming disorder could hinder the correct diagnosis of mental health conditions. “In the UK over 30 million people play games; with over 2 billion people worldwide enjoying games safely and sensibly. Leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying ‘Gaming Disorder’ creates a risk of misdiagnosis for those who most need help and any decision about including gaming disorder must therefore be based on robust and unequivocal evidence.”

The games industry is no stranger to controversy, with video game violence often blamed for real-life atrocities, much like various movies have been in the past. While WHO is concentrating more on the addictive quality of games in its classification, the recent success of games such as Fortnite — especially amongst children — no doubt has a role to play in the WHO’s decision to classify gaming disorder. However, the fact that a lot of the ratings on games seem to be ignored by parents does call the knee-jerk reaction of many into question.