WHO labels Gaming Disorder an addiction-related illness

The World Health Organization dealt some harsh news to gamers around the globe today. Dudes, we all got gaming disorder.

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Bad news for video game enthusiasts, we all have a problem. The World Health Organization has labeled gaming disorder an illness due to addictive behaviours. The 194 members of the WHO's got 72nd World Health Assembly adopted the eleventh revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

Please take a look at the bunch of magumbo that is the WHO's ICD-11:

6C51 Gaming disorder

  • Disorders due to addictive behaviours

Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

The copy paste of the description of Gambling Disorder really grinds my gears.
The copy paste of the description of Gambling Disorder really grinds my gears.

What really grinds my gears about this whole decision is that the description of the new recognized illness is literally a copy of the WHO's description of gambling addiction. The conflation of the two as the same illness does a disservice to the video game industry as well as players who suffer from gaming addiction. Gambling addiction can lead to a guy named Boom Boom breaking your legs behind the bar, where gaming addiction leads to carpal tunnel syndrome and a guy named Boom Boom calling you some unflattering things on Discord. 

The point is that gaming addiction is a thing, but it is not the same damn thing as gambling addiction. This is a ham-fisted decision by the World Health Organization today and it will most likely affect the video game industry when ICD-11 goes into effect on January 1, 2022. That will give us all plenty of time to play all the video games we want before we get rounded up like the lepers we are. Several esports players have brought up the point that their career could easily fall into the description of Gaming Disorder by the WHO.

Addiction is nothing to joke about, and there are a lot of ways to die from addictive behaviors, but it seems that in an effort to protect people the WHO has made a move that will have unintended consequences. They have done it in a way that unfairly groups gamers with gamblers, and we will just have to wait and see what the long-term consequences of this new recognized illness label will be. In the meantime, I am going to get back to playing Tetris 99, like I do everyday, because it owns.


Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

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