Earlier this week, a controversy occurred when it was announced the World Health Organization (WHO) would classify gaming addiction as a disease by 2022. In response, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) made a statement urging the WHO to reconsider the decision.
In 2018, it was decided in similar fashion by the World Health Organization that spending excessive amounts of time playing video games is a mental disorder. As of this week, the WHO has made that decision official and has ensured via unanimous vote that gaming disorder will be added to the International Classification of Diseases, or the ICD. The vote will become effective on January 1, 2022.
The Entertainment Software Association, who previously said video games aren't addictive in response to the WHO's initial claim, is now providing further pushback in lieu of this week's unanimous vote declaring gaming addiction a disease. The ESA, in conjunction with several other national video game industry associations, put forth a statement urging the WHO to reverse the controversial decision. The statement reads that, as the WHO is an "esteemed organization," it should be guided by "regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts." As such, the global video game industry believes that "gaming disorder" cannot justifiably be added to the ICD.
The ESA adds to the argument from the collective international video game industry by stating that video games are also very beneficial to society. For example, there are certain technological innovations, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, that are now mainstream thanks to the video game industry. As well, the ESA states that research science has been advanced by the video game industry, having mobilized research in fields like "mental health, dementia, cancer, and pioneer advances in accessibility."
Finally, the ESA argues that the game industry has helped in the area of consumer protection tools. Specifically, such tools include "parental controls and responsible game-education initiatives to ensure the players are able to engage in the safest environments."
Essentially, the ESA is responding to the WHO by making the argument that, in addition to excessive not necessarily being a disease due to insufficient evidence, gaming has actually been helpful to people, technology, and research in the long run. Morever other industry figures are responding to the WHO's decision. For example, Sony's CEO has responded to the gaming addiction controversy by stating they have their own countermeasures in place, including that of a ratings system and a mechanism allowing parents to limit how much their children play games per day.
Whether the World Health Organization will reverse their decision is up in the air. Given the significance of the Entertainment Software Association and other video game industry organizations, there may a possibility the decision will be changed. Plus, there is ample passion behind gaming as a benefit rather than gaming as a hindrance. Overall, this issue likely won't materialize in the development of video games or the industry's approach to them but it nonetheless may spark discussion with regards to gaming's relation with mental health.