The World Health Organization — the United Nations‘ specialized agency dealing with international public health — is taking a closer look at gaming addiction. Its upcoming International Compendium of Diseases (ICD) revision now includes a description of a gaming disorder along with gambling and substance-related addictive disorders.
A new occurrence
The 11th revision of the ICD, due to be released in 2018, marks the first time gaming addiction has appeared in the manual. It is listed under “disorders due to addictive behaviors or substance use,” a category that also includes gambling disorder and varying degrees of alcohol and drug addiction.
The WHO describes “gaming disorder” as a pattern of persistent or recurrent online or offline digital game playing. The disorder manifests through impaired control over session frequency and time, over-prioritization of play, and escalation of play despite negative consequences.
“The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” the entry reads. “The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behavior 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.”
While this new revision has been developing since 2015, the first draft of the manual was published only recently. The finished diagnostic manual is planned to be officially released in the middle of 2018.
Rationing game time for kids in China
One recent case raised awareness of potential gaming addiction, or at least anxiety about said addiction, in China.
Tencent is the largest and most valuable gaming and social media company in the world. And it’s made new efforts to limit playing time for young users of Honor of Kings. Tencent acted due to fears that children were getting addicted to the game.
Parents and teachers started complaining about children spending an enormous amount of time playing the game. With over 200 million players, the game is the most popular of its genre.
Tencent then limited daily play time for certain age brackets. Tencent limits users below 12 years of age to one hour per day. It limits players between 12 and 18 to two hours a day. Additionally, Tencent restricts users under 12 from logging in after 9 p.m. in China. Further restrictions on how much money younger users spend on the game will be added in the future.
“There are no rules to prevent indulgence in online games in China, but we decided to be the first to try to dispel parental worries by limiting play time and forcing children to log off,” said Tencent through social media.
Paying attention to such issues is crucial, given youth constantly entering the gaming world today. By mentioning gaming disorder in its manual, the WHO could spark further analysis of the topic.