Games industry meets WHO to challenge 'gaming disorder' claims

"We hope that through continued dialogue the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them"
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The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have 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).

As reported by Reuters (thanks, GI.biz), representatives from the gaming industry met with WHO officials in Geneva in December 2018 to discuss the issue. "It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct," ESA head Stanley Pierre-Louis said in a statement.

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 the UK, over 30 million people play games; with over 2 billion people worldwide enjoying games safely and sensibly," the statement said. "Leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying 'Gaming Disorder' creates a risk of misdiagnosis for those who most need help and any decision about including gaming disorder must therefore be based on robust and unequivocal evidence."

"We hope that through continued dialogue, with us and the wider scientific community, the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before the final version of ICD-11 is endorsed next year. We also hope that they can demonstrate a transparent and due process as this decision will have implications on national health systems across the world.

"The games industry takes its responsibility to players, particularly children, very seriously," the statement concluded. "We are committed to collaborating with stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, parents and carers, to ensure best practice in ratings, parental controls, and the wide range of tools that can be used to limit the time spent playing and promote health game play. We also work hard to let parents and carers know about how to play games safely and sensibly through resources such as askaboutgames.com."

The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) - which was also in attendance - has also expressed concern. In a statement issued to GI.biz, managing director Simon Little said: "Classifying 'gaming disorder' under the mental health and addiction category of the ICD-11 list may well lead to abuse of diagnosis and misdiagnosis as such inclusion is not based on a high level of evidence, as would be required to formalise any other disorder."

It's thought the talks are continuing, with a further meeting "tentatively" scheduled.

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