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ESA rebukes World Health Organization 'gaming disorder' classification

The Entertainment Software Association argues that including ‘gaming disorder’ in the upcoming diagnostic manual "recklessly trivializes real mental health issues."

The Entertainment Software Association has issued a statement in response to the World Health Organization’s recent move to include ‘gaming disorder’ and ‘hazardous gaming’ in its upcoming International Compendium of Diseases revision.

The ESA, which considers itself the voice of the US video game industry and counts many major developers among its members, believes that inclusion of video game-related disorders in the ICD is not the correct move and instead “recklessly trivializes real mental health issues.”

"Just like avid sports fans and consumers of all forms of engaging entertainment, gamers are passionate and dedicated with their time,” said the ESA in a statement. “Having captivated gamers for more than four decades, more than 2 billion people around the world enjoy video games.”

“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the WHO to reverse direction on its proposed action."

The recently revealed revision named two video game-related disorders in its first draft, marking the first time such issues have graced the pages of the diagnostic manual. The first, gaming disorder, is categorized under ‘disorders due to addictive behaviors or substance use’ and it placed alongside gambling disorder and varying degrees of alcohol and drug addiction.

The manual defines the disorder as a pattern of persistent or recurrent digital game playing that is over-prioritized and escalated despite negative consequences in a player's personal, family, social, educational, or occupational life.

The second video game-related classification, hazardous gaming, deals with activities that increase the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the player or those around them. 

While only an initial draft of the upcoming revision has been released so far, the ICD-11 is slated for release in mid-2018.

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