What you need to know

  • Gaming Disorder is being added to the World Health Organization's list of diseases.
  • Microsoft recognizes that overuse of video games takes place.
  • The company has vowed to give users more control over limits in the future.

Updated May 25, 2019: The World Health Organization unanimously voted to add "Gaming Disorder" to its list of diseases. Reports state that the change will go into effect in 2022.

Currently, there's a debate going on around the world about simply enjoying video games versus being addicted to them. According to a report by GamesIndustry, the World Health Organization (WHO) will vote whether to add "Gaming Disorder" to its list of diseases this week. This means that it will be officially recognized as a disorder. From what has been said so far by researchers, it seems like it will easily pass.

Microsoft realizes that there is a difference between playing a game for a few hours and having fun, or playing it for the whole day without even taking a bathroom break. On one side of the spectrum it can be an interesting activity, on the other end, you're damaging your health. In order to prevent "overuse," the company has a robust set of parental controls in the Xbox One. The company takes the possibility of a Gaming Disorder very seriously, and has promised to do more.

Microsoft's Head of Operations Dave McCarthy said the following during an interview with GamesIndustry. He discussed the company's vision for maintaining a healthy lifestyle by giving gamers choice to set limits.

Things are a bit spotty and the story isn't complete and we need to learn more. And we participate in that research and we drive some of our own. At the same time, we feel — at Xbox and Microsoft — that we have a huge responsibility when it comes to the healthy gaming lifestyle of the players on our service overall. We have an on-going commitment to constantly evolving that tool set around things, like screen time, content restrictions and spending controls... because some people need help... I think it's a balance of having the right research to guide decision making overall, but that does not excuse ourselves from having responsibility to lead in this area... We have to be clear in our stance that we do believe a balanced approach to a gaming lifestyle is key. We need to state that's a value of ours... We're exploring the idea over whether we would apply those more broadly across our ecosystem... When we do that on Xbox, and this is something Phil has been really effective at in his role, is centring us on the gamer, and how choice is key for all that on Xbox. Choice around screen time, choice around the content that I want to play, choice around the services I want to have... And I think that is going to remain our philosophy, versus telling people they need to go in this direction. It's more about giving people the tools to enable them... There is a difference between engagement and overuse... overuse... which is where you're playing something for hours on end and don't get up to go to the bathroom. Putting precise language around that is important to understanding that anything that's good entertainment, or good art, does immerse you and want to bring you back... That's different to overuse of something.

Hopefully the upcoming parental control features will allow gamers to better manage their hobby with day-to-day life. Microsoft could consider adding a screen time indicator — like the one found in iOS — to show how long they've been gaming or engaged in other activities. Such a feature could be integrated into the Xbox Guide so it's available with a click of a button.

What do you feel about the possibility of Gaming Disorder being added to the list of diseases by the WHO? Is this a problem you're worried about? Let us know.

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