Video game addiction might be added to World Health Organisation disease list

Video game addiction might be added to World Health Organisation disease list

The World Health Organisation has drafted definitions for video game addiction as part of its beta of International Compendium of Diseases revision.

This new documentation is set to be rolled out later in 2018, but includes definitions for 'gaming disorder' and 'hazardous gaming' in its addiction section.

Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of behaviour where the subject has "impaired control" such as being having little grasp over when they do it and for how long. Furthermore, video games taking over someone's life is also part of the brief, as well as there being negative consequences due to them playing games.

"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 text said.

"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."

Meanwhile, hazardous gaming is defined as playing video games where there is either physical or mental health harm done to the subject or those around them.

"Hazardous gaming refers to a pattern of gaming, either online or offline that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the individual or to others around this individual," the WHO wrote.

"The increased risk may be from the frequency of gaming, from the amount of time spent on these activities, from the neglect of other activities and priorities, from risky behaviours associated with gaming or its context, from the adverse consequences of gaming, or from the combination of these. The pattern of gaming is often persists in spite of awareness of increased risk of harm to the individual or to others."

These definitions are far from final, and it's possible that they might not make it into the final round of revisions. Were they to be on the WHO's list of diseases, then that certainly gives credence to the long-held notion by some corners of society that video games are indeed addictive.

But at the same time, if someone's behaviour is causing actual and very real damage to them and those around them, then this is certainly a good thing for helping those with real problems.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.