Pressure on the gaming industry continues to mount as the World Health Organization announced that it would be voting on whether gaming addiction should be classified as an official disease.
This isn't the first time that governing bodies have used their influence to impact the gaming industry in some way. Notable recent instances of this can be found in governmental bans on certain forms of gambling inside video games and the current debate being waged inside the United States Senate as it relates to loot boxes and microtransactions. This new step in pushing to add gaming addiction to the list of official diseases could shape how games are sold in the future more than any other measure ever enacted.
When they first shared a portion of their findings a year ago, many within the gaming community and the gaming industry disputed the claims being made. Companies and health experts alike demanded that the World Health Organization provide a much stronger basis for their assertion that gaming in any way, shape, or form was worse for the average consumer than the television. The announcement of the decision to reconvene on the issue by WHO seems to suggest that they feel they have finally gathered enough information on the subject.
According to Eurogamer, the World Health Organization has included gaming addiction into the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases. In the document, WHO outlines that individuals who exhibit gaming behaviors which significantly impact their functionality at work, home, or school would be classified as sufferers of the newly added disease. Additionally, WHO states that while the disease only affects a small amount of people, it is important for those who play video games on a regular basis to be aware of the time that they spend and effect that this time has on their overall behavior. The findings by WHO will be brought to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, where members will vote on whether it should be included in the list of officially recognized diseases.
Given that there have been instances in games like World of Warcraft and StarCraft where players have died due to lack of sleep and nutrition, this decision isn't that shocking. While many may see it as the government overstepping its bounds, it will at the very least bring attention to the issue once more and perhaps cause those within the gaming industry to do more to ensure the safety of their end users. It is ultimately up to the consumer, but if major publishers provide safety measures before this vote, it could ensure that extra regulation isn't placed upon games being sold in the future.
While safety should always be the number one concern, consumers should have the freedom to choose how they play their games. In many instances, the problems outlined by WHO can be solved by simply adding an in-game clock. Not only are consumers highly supportive of actions like this, but in the case of Diablo III, many users reported that they spent far less time on the game than previous installments as a result.