In an interesting decision on May 25th, the World Health Organization (WHO) is officially recognizing gaming addiction as an illness.

While this decision is aimed at the broader gaming industry, the rise of Fortnite has absolutely contributed to this classification.

No game truly entered the mainstream culture quite like Fortnite. With its unique style and accessibility over all platforms, Fortnite’s popularity is staggering.

Apparently enough cases were reported to the WHO that the organization felt the need to classify gaming addiction (disorder) as a an official illness.

Here is the official definition of gaming disorder from the WHO:

“A pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:

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

While most gamers immediate reaction is to laugh off a decision like this, gaming addiction has actually manifested itself with serious consequences.

In 2015, a Taiwanese man was found dead after a 3-day gaming binge, and he wasn’t the only person to die while gaming.

Now it is easy to dismiss those cases, but addiction can be real and brutal. Even if you can easily separate yourself from gaming, others may not be able to.

However, this report definitely does seem like it comes from people who don’t understand why you can’t pause an online game. They talked to “experts in various fields” but no one knows what their conversations were like behind closed doors.

How will the WHO decision impact gaming?

This is the interesting part. Having an official distinction for gaming disorder gives parents more ammo in the argument against playing a ton of video games.

Is this something that can be diagnosed? What is the treatment for it?

Will people end up going to gaming rehab? There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this decision.

In short, it probably doesn’t affect much. Games publishers are going to push back on the decision, something the Entertainment Software Association had already done before the final decision was made.

“[This decision] recklessly trivializes real mental health issues like depression and social anxiety disorder,” the ESA said in January according to gamesindustry.biz.

There won’t be any mandates on how much people can game that weren’t already established by parents.

Best reactions to the “gaming disorder” decision

There is a huge pushback from the gaming and Fortnite community right now. People are comparing gaming to other time sucks like binge watching Netflix or spending hours on Reddit.

How is gaming really that much different? Here are some of the best tweets about the decision:

Even CouRage’s mom got in on the criticisms:

She brings up a good point of all the good gaming can do. Unlike drug or alcohol addiction which have no positives, gaming is a legitimate career. Gaming will only become a larger part of the world and teaching kids how to get jobs in this industry is what we should be doing, not classifying it as a disease.

Teach moderation absolutely, but calling this a disease is just so weird. Maybe they only mean the very extreme cases like the deaths linked above, but more people die from cows each year than gaming. (That’s actually true, did you know 22 people die every year from cow related injuries?)

Anyway, in the last two nights I have played multiple hours of Fortnite with my younger brother and a good friend growing up, and it didn’t feel like a harmful addiction, just making good memories with good people who live five hours away.

If we are going to acknowledge the bad in gaming, we must also recognize the good in it.

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Mitch is a writer who used to be a sports broadcaster. When not playing or writing about Fortnite he also plays too much Rocket League and Hearthstone. You can see more of Mitch's work by following his Twitter @Mitch_Reames. Feel free to pitch stories you want to see him cover by tweeting at him or sending him a DM.