The World Health Organisation (WHO) is classifying “gaming disorder” as a psychological condition. Its detailed description was published as a draft in the 11th edition of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) that came out on June 18, 2018. The ICD is commonly known among health care providers and researchers in medical sciences. As its name implies, it is meant to define and classify health conditions and serve as a reference for diagnosis, medical treatments and a guide for health care providers and insurers as far as health care coverage is concerned.
Under the category of addictive behavior, gaming disorder is
… characterized by 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. 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.
In short, gaming disorder happens when a gamer prioritizes gaming over other activities while showing signs of poor control over such behavior, and while gaming impairs other aspects of someone’s personal, social and occupational life. However, if you feel like this is something you or someone you know is experiencing, don’t rush to conclusions. Only healthcare professionals are qualified for an appropriate diagnosis. For starters, the fact that you spent the whole weekend playing Fortnite doesn’t mean you have this disorder. In most cases, the pattern of behavior associated with gaming disorder must be something you’ve been struggling with for a year or so.
Not all experts in the field agree with the inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD, though. According to psychologist Anthony Bean, the definition is not precise enough, especially when it comes to the fact that, a Minecraft player is substantially different from a Counter-Strike player. Additionally, if all facets of video gaming are not sufficiently understood by therapists and other professionals using the definition of gaming disorder as a reference for their jobs, it could actually bring more confusion than help.
At the moment, gaming disorder is still a draft that will be presented at the World Health Assembly in 2019 and will go into effect on January 1, 2022.