A Closer Look at “Gaming Disorder” Part 1: Gaming Disorder Explained | Healthy Gamer



A Closer Look at “Gaming Disorder” Part 1: Gaming Disorder Explained

A Closer Look at “Gaming Disorder” Part 1: Gaming Disorder Explained

This article features a gamers take on the WHO’s recent classification of Gaming Disorder

May of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) voted to pass its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). In this revision, WHO introduced a new condition: “Gaming Disorder.” Beyond the polarized opinions on this decision, it is important to take a closer look at what the decision actually entails, what each side are saying, and what does all of this mean for fellow gamers.

In this multi-part series, we will explore


Part 1: What “Gaming Disorder” is

“Gaming Disorder,” as outlined in the 11th Revision of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) [1], is a pattern of gaming that results in the following three main “symptoms.”

  • “Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context)”

This is what some gamers would describe as “I can’t stop/I lose myself.” A common example is when some gamers tell themselves, “I’m only going to play for an hour or two.” Before they realize how much time they actually spent gaming, the clock reads six in the morning and the sun is about to rise. Keep in mind that if this is a one time occurence, or something that happens once a month, that doesn’t necessarily classify the behavior as a gaming disorder. It’s easy to lose track of time in an immersive gaming experience, but that becomes a problem when it happens on a regular and consistent basis.

For example, if you spend 1 day during the weekend playing video games for 10 hours, that may not qualify as an addiction. But if you do that every day, for weeks on end. That is when a gaming disorder should be considered.

  • “Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that it takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities”

When video games become the only thing in life that some gamers can look forward to, it can become dangerous. It’s important to have other interests as good reasons to put the controller down [2]. A lack of competing interests can lead to video games gradually eating up more and more of a gamer’s time and energy. Eventually, everything else takes a backseat, including physical and mental health.

Going back to the previous example, going to work or school and thinking about video games, biding time until you can get home and play, calling out sick to play video games, skipping out on personal responsibilities to play video games, these are all potential signs of a gaming disorder.

  • “Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”

These negative consequences can range from missing a homework deadline, to severe harm towards physical and mental health. This “symptom” really becomes a hazard when video games begin to take precedence over basic life necessities (sleep, hygiene, nutrition, etc). Horror stories about gamers burning themselves out to go on insane marathon sessions are some of the more extreme examples.

Let’s go back to the first example one more time, by spending all your waking hours outside of work or school to play video games, not taking enough time to bathe, clean your room/house, exercise, or get social interaction, these can be the biggest indicators of a gaming disorder.

Additional Guidelines


WHO’s guidelines for “Gaming Disorder” emphasizes that the “symptoms” must be severe enough to lead to “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” These harmful patterns of gaming must also be evident for over at least 12 months for a proper diagnosis. That said, exceptions can be made for particularly severe cases.

Using our example one last time, someone with a gaming disorder spends all of their free time playing video games, and all their non-freetime thinking about gaming. They push other responsibilities to the back burner, resulting in negative consequences.

Descriptions of “Gaming Disorder” can be found in the ICD-11 and on the Official WHO Website [3].

Image Via: Fortnite – Epic Games

Part 2: Controversies Surrounding the Classification

With WHO’s decision came a whole host of responses, ranging from fervent support to vehement opposition. Continue to part 2 for a comprehensive overview of what the gamers, the gaming industry, and the academia field have to say for this classification. [Link]


[1]: World Health Organization. (2019). 6C51 Gaming Disorder. ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. [Link]

[2]: HealthyGamer. (2019). Developing a Competing Interest. YouTube. [Link]

[3]: World Health Organization. (2019). Gaming Disorder. World Health Organization Website [Link]

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