Acting ESA chief talks about gaming addiction and industry unionisation

In a revealing new interview, acting president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, Stanley Pierre-Louis, has expanded on why the organisation is against the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) current categorisation of video game addiction, as well as give views on the purported correlation between gun violence and video games and the unionisation of game developers.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) met to discuss the WHO’s decision last year to declare "gaming disorder" as an official addictive disorder in the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) at the end of last year. Representatives from the gaming industry met with WHO officials in Geneva in December 2018 to discuss the issue, at which time Pierre-Louis said: "It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct."

British trade body UKIE – which also attended the World Health Organisation talks back in December – said in a statement that it hopes "continued dialogue" will enable WHO to "reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before the final version of ICD-11 is endorsed next year".

In a new interview with Gamasutra, Pierre-Louis said: “[The ESA’s] concern with this particular classification – ‘gaming disorder’ as being proposed by WHO – is that it’s not based on medial consensus. It’s based on a point of view by some medical experts."

While Pierre-Louis acknowledged that some people may develop unhealthy habits, he noted the considerable debate among medical experts that on whether games are addictive, or if game addiction is merely "a symptom of a larger concern".

"There are several instances where kids who have turned to video games to escape mental and physical abuse are undergoing treatment for ‘gaming disorder’ instead of the underlying abuse they’ve endured," he said.

"Our takeaway was…we were able to express the importance of video games writ large," he said. "We were also able to look at the evidence that’s out there about what happens when people play the same games in the United States, vs. other countries. The same games are distributed worldwide, but you don’t have the same violence issues in other countries that you have here, which says that there’s something else going on—it’s not video games. I think that had a really big impact on discussions."

"I think that the video game industry has the strongest self-regulation model of any entertainment industry," he added. "That’s the Federal Trade Commission [stating that], that’s not Stan talking… We have an industry that really listens to consumers."

Pierre-Louis also reflected on the part games play when it comes to America’s gun violence after the ESA was called to give evidence to the Trump administration about video games and their connection to real-world violence.

In closing, Pierre-Louis also talked about the unionisation of the industry, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether he thought how it was affecting the sector.

"I know that our members and our industry want the best place possible for the creation of games,” he said. “And that means creating the workforce in a very respectful way. At the same time, [each company’s workforce] needs to make its own independent judgment about issues related to unionisation. That’s not something ESA really engages on."

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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