Gaming disorder could lead to addiction warning labels on games

I wrote a huge feature for GamesRadar this week on gaming disorder, which has just been formally recognised in the latest edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). I spoke to scientists on both sides of the debate over whether gaming disorder should have been put in ICD-11 – Professor Mark Coulson co-authored a paper arguing that it was premature to formally recognise gaming disorder, whereas Professor Mark Griffiths was part of the WHO working group that advocated to include it.

Video game addiction is now a disorder. But what does that mean and why does it matter?

I asked Professor Griffiths whether inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 will mean that games will have to carry warnings about addiction, and he was pretty adamant that they would. He pointed to the furore over photosensitive epilepsy in the 1990s, which led to the now-ubiquitous warnings about epilepsy in games. Soon those warnings could be joined by labels saying that a small proportion of gamers could end up so addicted they need professional help.

It was interesting that academics on both sides of the debate both agree that gaming addiction is very much a thing for a small number of people – people who have no control over their habit, which causes huge problems for their health, work and social life. Gaming addiction is very much a thing – the only argument is whether it should be formalised as a disorder.

It will be fascinating to watch this story evolve over the years to come – and particularly the games industry’s reaction to it. Currently, the industry is basically denying the problem – but it does exist, and dodgy practices like loot boxes may well have exacerbated it.