Hey, World Health Organisation: The Scientific Basis For A 'Gaming Disorder' Is Weak

Image: Amanda Yeo

The International Classification of Diseases is due for it's next update in the middle of this year, and among the proposed revisions is the addition of a new "gaming disorder".

Not everyone agrees with the inclusion - including more than 30 International and Australian researchers who just published a paper pointing out the weak scientific basis for a “gaming disorder”, and a lack of rigorous research.

There are a few reasons for the disagreement.

The researchers say not only is the quality of evidence for a gaming disorder low, there is confusion - even among those supporting the diagnosis - about what exactly gaming disorder is.

The World Health Organisation is is using similar criteria to define a gaming disorder as that used for gambling disorder. The researchers say this risks labelling behaviours "that are considered normal for millions of regular gamers".

Would a gaming disorder relate only to gambling oriented games or to video games more generally? Is the problem behaviour caused by other underlying mental disorders, or is it a consequence of alluring game mechanics?

Are we diagnosing people who play online games or offline games, or both? And is gaming disorder just a subcategory of a broader Internet addiction disorder or perhaps just one of many behavioural addictions?

What, exactly, are the symptoms of gaming disorder? Or are we to presume that clinicians will know it when they see it?

As of this writing, the WHO appears to have proposed four separate categories for gaming disorders, all of which appear to differ from the DSM-5's Internet Gaming Disorder. This suggests to us considerable confusion in the field regarding what gaming disorder is. In our view, too many critical questions remain unanswered to support formalising the disorder.

The researchers say moral panic is believed to be influencing the classification.

"It remains unclear what the clinical advantages are of a 'gaming disorder' label," the researchers say, "The associated risks of stigmatisation and diagnostic inflation should be considered as well."

The researchers also pointed out that research on the effects of technology on human behaviour is often riddled with methodological errors - and addiction research is no exception.

These researchers initially wrote a paper opposing the classification back in 2016, arguing there was a lack of consensus among researchers who study games.

Responses from other researchers who disagreed with their position were collected, and their points addressed in paper.

"Given the gravity of diagnostic classification and its wider societal impact," the researchers say, "we urge our colleagues at the WHO to err on the side of caution for now and postpone the formalisation."



    Yeah, it’s way too flimsy and would need to be in something like the DSM in order to be taken seriously. It’ll be years until that happens.
    It’s too early and too varied for enough robust research to have even been done and people doing the research now don’t criticise and refine their own methods strongly enough during retests before calling out their discovery. It’s shit.
    Similarly, the “Video games cause school shootings!” argument would also be too early to call even if had been tested to death since Columbine.
    People just like neat little answers to things and don’t like to strain their brains to construe that everything like this is a layered process likely unique to the individual.

    Do people who work out every day for several hours have a disorder?
    Do people who train for hours and hours for the Olympics have a disorder?
    Do people who love to read for hours and hours on end have a disorder?
    I could go on...
    Seriously, this winds me up more than anything else in the world.
    It's a fucking hobby, people. Honestly...

      Maybe it’s a hobby for you. For people that spend every waking hour of their life playing games, it’s an addiction that has significant impacts on all aspects of their life.

      I have known people first hand who got addicted to WoW back in the day and they lost their job, girlfriend, and had to move back in with their folk and then they just didn't work or do anything for the next 6 years of their life. Doesn't always happen but some people are susceptible to these sorts of things and being aware of our own potential fallacies is important in understand people.

      A lot of people don't have willpower.

        So the issue there is some sort of mental or emotional health issue. The gaming is the outlet, not the cause.

          It’s a symbiotic relationship. One leads to the other. So yes, video games are very much part of the problem.

          I’ve seen multiple people who’s lives have been destroyed due to video game addiction.

          It’s like saying drugs or alcohol isn’t a problem because other underlying issues are always the cause.

            That's a fair point. but just like with gambling and alcoholism, I think we're trying to stop the symptom because addressing the underlying problem is too hard.

    It can be a disorder. Like with anything that is overdone and has negative impacts on people’s lives.

    I know we want to defend our hobby and some feel it’s a personal attack on something they love, but gaming addiction is a real problem that needs to be addressed.

      It's not a disorder, it can be the outcome from one but it isn't one in itself.

        Overeating is also caused by underlying problems/disorders, but it’s still a disorder. Ditto with video game addiction.

          Can you tell me what this over eating disorder is called? And a dsm or idc number?

              Although I still do disagree with you on the gaming thing and think it's more an outcome of other disorders such as, depression, anxiety, some other competitive or social disorder. I do thank you for enlightening me on eating disorders, I knew that over eating was a thing but was ignorant to its link to bulimia and well like my thoughts on gaming, thought it was an outcome of something else.

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