You’ve heard of an area in the brain dedicated to recognising Pokemon. Now, get ready for something even more odd-sounding: video game addiction has officially been recognised as a mental health disorder.
What? When did this happen?
In an update last Saturday, The World Health Organisation (WHO) added video game addiction to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – a compiled resource of recognized diseases that have been diagnosed before.
Addiction to digital and video gaming has been described in the ICD as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour” that becomes so extensive that it “takes precedence over other life interests”. Simply speaking, not just any (and every) gamer gets diagnosed.
Shekhar Saxena, the WHO’s expert on mental health and substance abuse, informed NBC News that the disorder is rare. In fact, gamers with this “disorder” can only be diagnosed following months of extended playing. Saxena even goes so far as to describe the worst cases observed in global research – gamers playing for up to 20 hours a day, forgoing sleep, meals, work, school, or other daily activities.
While video game addiction has already been listed as a mental health disorder, this new classification will not be formally adopted until 2022. In other words, there’s a chance that it could be removed, if it receives enough opposition.
Has the move received opposition?
As one might expect, the move has indeed received backlash. The Video Games Coalition, an industry lobby group, has responded to the WHO’s decision.
The coalition argues that their products are “enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide”, across a variety of genres, devices and platforms. It also added that the “educational, therapeutic and recreational value” of games was well-founded and widely recognised.
Regardless of whether the move will be withdrawn or not, it’s nice to note that some game companies are already taking measures to curb video game addiction in their player bases.