Recently, the World Health Organization classified “video game addiction” as a mental health disorder. Their definition is as follows:

Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:

  1. impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
  2. increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

This obviously has effects on the video game industry, which has lobbied against this classification, but the classification may also force us to reconsider elements of gamification as a tactical play for marketing. To put things in perspective, many “gamers” play online, which has substituted for time on social media platforms. Gaming has also brought the rise of “in-game marketing,” which for brands like Gatorade increased household spending by 24%. Recent trends like this may need to be reevaluated. 

Let’s not forget that the gaming industry is not exclusive to the XBOX, Playstation or PC users out there. Mobile gaming is foreseen to surpass traditional video games; by 2021, mobile games will account for 59% of the gaming market, with approximately 220 million active users in the US. An additional consideration is that mobile games have become more popular with woman and older age demographics. Adding to the mix is the recent emergence of gameplay video. Currently, there’s a larger audience for gaming video than the audiences of Hulu, HBO, Netflix and ESPN put together. We’ll also have to wonder how that may factor into play.

There’s even more to consider here – with this new classification, we will likely see the rise of new technologies and therapies aimed addressing this issue. Recently, the number of mental health apps has exponentially grown, to the point that there have been challenges navigating them. The challenge with video game addiction, however, especially with mobile gaming on the rise, is the potential that app-based therapy could become counter-intuitive to treatment, given the nature of this addiction.

The key takeaway here is that this new classification could have a major effect on big industries like mental health, gaming, and marketing. It will be interesting to see how the classification makes a long-term impact with regards to how people will move forward consuming these products and the ways in which they may treat the problem surrounding them. 

About the Author:

A creative director by trade, Cheena has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, startups and agencies. Specializing in using design thinking, technology and strategy to build out creative solutions, she adds her expertise to the Syneos Health Communications team as Director of Innovation. During her career, she has been at the cutting edge of the industry with experience in augmented reality, social listening, media theory and user experience. With over 13 years of experience, much of her focus has revolved around solving communication challenges and creating brand engagement in a culturally relevant way. She also has been an instructor at Miami Ad School NY for over 6 years, mentoring new creatives on developing integrated campaigns, understanding media, interactive concepting, and working with account planning teams.