The World Health Organization (WHO) has added ‘gaming disorder’ to the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). This comes after the American Psychiatric Association listed ‘internet gaming disorder’ as a ‘condition for further study’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) in 2013.

This is a big deal. The ICD gives unique codes to diseases and is used by dozens of national governments, including the United Kingdom, to allocate resources throughout their health systems. And whereas the DSM-5 put a question mark over (internet) gaming disorder, there is no such doubt lingering in ICD-11.

There could be huge implications for the games industry, not least a future in which games could carry mandatory warning labels about their addictive qualities. It also means that people who have faced serious life difficulties as a result of gaming addiction could have more access to help. But how did we get here?

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What is gaming disorder?

The final draft of ICD-11 was published on 18th June 2018, and it defines gaming disorder as

“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.”

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