‘Gaming disorder’ is officially recognized by the World Health Organization

The behavior has to be serious enough that it gets in the way of family, social, education or occupational parts of one's life and normally emerges over a period of a year, though it can come sooner.

It's hoped the new official classification will encourage gamers to seek help for their addiction and others take their disorder more seriously. Most of the roughly 160 million American adults who play games online will not experience the addiction. To establish a diagnosis for gaming disorder, a "persistent or recurrent" behavior pattern of "sufficient severity" needs to emerge.

Clinicians have also debated the validity of establishing a gaming disorder, as it shares many characteristics with other addictive disorders. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. "Thus, an obsessive focus of the World Health Organization on [videogame addiction] would appear to us to be a response to moral panic, one which in turn is likely to fuel more moral panic, including miscommunications that game playing can be compared to substance abuse".

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Jen MacLean, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said in a blog post in January that the classification poses threats to game developers and it is "so broad as to cover nearly every person who's ever played "just one more turn" of an awesome game, or who prioritizes games as their first choice of hobby or entertainment". However, by officially recognizing gaming disorder, the document paves the way for prevention and treatment options that "can help people to alleviate their suffering". There is no objective evidence to define and diagnose this disorder and the research supporting inclusion is highly contested and inconclusive.

Still, there is a lot we don't yet understand about gaming disorder. A group of over 30 social scientists and mental health researchers plan to co-sign an article in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Behavior Addiction arguing against the inclusion, too, Gamasutra pointed out. "We are therefore concerned to see "gaming disorder" still contained in the latest version of the WHO's ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community".

"A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by World Health Organization in the process of ICD-11 development", writes the WHO.

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