WHO’s announcement on gaming addiction brings about ongoing debate
WHO’s announcement on gaming addiction brings about ongoing debate
  • Yang Nam-kyung
  • 승인 2019.09.23 21:24
  • 수정 2019.09.23 22:13
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The logo of Game Sparta's academic guild  Photo provided by Korea Academic Society of Games.
The logo of Game Sparta's academic guild Photo provided by Korea Academic Society of Games.


On May 25, World Health Organization (WHO) recognized gaming disorder as a disease, adding it in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).  To fight against gaming disorder being classified as a disease in Korea, Joint Action Committee launched Game Sparta, a team of 300 people with the same purpose of defending the gaming industry.

Game Sparta aims to change the negative social norm revolving games by straightening out the bias opinions about them. It is comprised of two groups, the academic guild and creative guild. The former focuses on researching and writing academic papers, while the latter congregates with those from the gaming industry to  involve in various projects. The Joint Action Committee recruited members by receiving applications through Facebook, and based on their characteristics, divided them into the two guilds.

“Realmeter, a public opinion polling agency, ran a national survey and found out that nearly half of the Korean population were against games,” stated Wi Jong-hyun, chairman of the Joint Action Committee. “As this pessimistic outlook is being backed by WHO, we want to let citizens know the exact truth about gaming.”

Wi Jong-hyun is an activist in defending the gaming society. He is currently a professor at the Chung-Ang University Business School as well as being the president of Korea Game Society.

Wi commented that the biggest problem with the issue is that there is no definitive standard to decide who is addicted to games and who is not. WHO announced that if a person gives increasing priority to gaming to the extent that it hinders daily activities and impairs personal, family, social, educational and occupational areas, it is classified as a gaming disorder.

Lee Hae-kook, a professor at The Catholic University of Korea’s Department of Psychiatry, stated that WHO was right in classifying gaming disorder as a disease.

“There has been talk since 2014 about how gaming addiction affected the patients,” Lee said from an interview at Doctor’s News. “More than 70 experts in medicine, psychiatry, psychology, and health sciences in 30 countries have been consulting about this matter for the past four years.”

The experts’ conclusion was that the overuse of digital devices causes severe physical and mental health consequences.

Opposing to this, Wi claims that there is no real measurement to define extreme addition. 
“In the past, WHO defined gender dysphoria, a mismatch between one’s gender identity and sex, as a type of mental illness,” Wi said. “Countless people were victimized by this erroneous accusation. It was only ICD-11 when transgenders were liberated from this stigma. If gaming disorder becomes treated as an illness without proper guidelines, many may suffer for a long period of time.”

The chairman added that this stigma effect will have a negative impact not only on the gaming industry but the whole digital industry in general. 

“If gaming disorder becomes a disease, people will naturally start to distance themselves from gamers and those who work in the industry,” Wi said. 

He added that those who play or develop games will be deemed as potential mental disorder patients. 

“This won’t stop with the gaming industry,” Wi said. “Soon television, cartoon, animations- the whole digital industry may potentially be under threat.” 

“It’s crucial for Korea to set proper measurements to define the extremity of gaming addiction before classifying gaming disorder as a disease,” Lee acknowledged. “We have to be as scientific and objective as possible to accurately prevent and treat gaming addiction.”

Wi concluded that gaming is a necessary part of human life. 

“Games bridge different people together and serve as a place for cultural exchange,” Wi said. “Digital games are just an extension from games of the past like Go. Also, In the past, digital technology was underdeveloped. Now there are digital games suitable to the digital era. It’s as simple as that.”

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