ESA Slams World Health Organization’s Gaming Disorder Decision

The World Health Organization will recognize Gaming Disorder as a real mental disorder in the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases and the ESA aren’t happy about it.

‘Gaming disorder’ and ‘hazardous gaming’ join the long list of mental disorders in the upcoming revision of International Compendium of Diseases. Gaming disorder finds itself categorized under ‘disorders due to addictive behaviors or substance use,’ which just so happens to place it alongside gambling disorder. As expected, the Entertainment Software Association is not happy about the classification.

The ESA, which is the main lobbying firm of the industry, has vehemently slammed the WHO’s decision to include gaming disorder as a mental disorder. Instead, the ESA has claimed that gaming disorder is fake and that WHO should refocus its efforts on ‘real’ disorders.

“The World Health Organization knows that common sense and objective research prove video games are not addictive. And, putting that official label on them recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder, which deserve treatment and the full attention of the medical community. We strongly encourage the WHO to reverse direction on its proposed action.”

For reference, this is how the upcoming manual defines gaming disorder:

“A pattern of persistent or recurrent digital game playing that is over-prioritized and escalated despite negative consequences in a player’s personal, family, social, educational, or occupational life.”

Gaming disorder and how it relates to gambling has been thrust into the limelight thanks to the likes of Star Wars Battlefront II, Destiny 2, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Star Wars Battlefront II was especially egregious by forcing all player progression into Loot Boxes, limiting the amount of rewards players earned through just playing, and heavily encouraging the use of microtransactions. Since that debacle, governments around the world have been debating whether or not Loot Boxes are gambling and should be regulated.


The ESA is also fighting back against any form of regulation by denying that Loot Boxes are not gambling. Back in November, they told Glixel (via Rolling Stone) that:

“Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling. Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.”

Despite this and the ESA’s anger towards WHO, world governments are moving forward. Belgium’s Gaming Commission announced that Loot Boxes are gambling and are looking to ban games with them in the country and, perhaps, the entire EU. Hawaiian State Representative Chris Lee is crafting legislation that would ban anyone under 21 years of age from buying games with Loot Boxes in them. Representatives from five other states are looking into similar legislation. WHO has not made any move to suggest they will remove gaming disorder from the International Compendium of Diseases.

The World Health Organization’s ICD-11 releases mid-2018.

Thanks, Gamasutra!