Despite shady details, as well as the overreach and abuse of mental health classifications seen in non-democratic countries, the World Health Organization will add Gaming Disorder to its International Classification of Diseases in 2018.
According to a preliminary draft of the 2018 International Classification of Diseases, the WHO’s “gaming disorder” will be defined as such:
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.
Further, “the behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” It may be either “continuous or episodic and recurrent,” and, while typically diagnosed following “a period of at least 12 months” of evidence, has no concrete time requirement. That is to say, a doctor can diagnose it at any point they like, should they deem the severity “significant,” without the WHO batting an eye.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) concluded that “gaming disorder” as a condition warranted “further study.” The American Psychiatric Association will not classify it without additional research. In fact, their response to the rise of this incredibly broad and vaguely defined condition warned against just the sort of route being taken by the WHO:
We argue that rather than stigmatizing gaming per se, the role of scientists and practitioners is to establish a clear-cut distinction between someone who may use games excessively but non-problematically and someone who is experiencing significant impairment in their daily lives as a consequence of their excessive gaming.
This responsibility needs to be shared by popular media who are often quick to build a moral panic around gaming behaviors, often based on cherry-picking specific case studies and pieces of research which support their headlines.
But as research continues to dismantle the arguments of video games as harmful in and of themselves, the pathology behind excessive play is an ongoing concern for parents and professionals alike. In a world where publishers are openly creating thinly-veiled slot machines disguised as entertainment, people are, at least, looking for answers.
You can find Nate Church being a huge nerd @Get2Church on Twitter.