New Study Raises Questions Against WHO’s Gaming Disorder

There has been an ongoing scientific discussion on gaming over the course of last year after the World Health Organization recommended new diagnoses for “hazardous gaming” and “gaming disorder”. The main question raised by the community is “Are psychological problems causes by excessive gaming or do people already have issues that leads to a harmful relationship with gaming?”

A new study by Oxford’s Internet Institute, published in the open-access journal Clinical Psychological Science, strengthens the latter explanation. It also underlines how a portion of the gaming industry’s loyal players are motivated by some unmet psychological needs.

To investigate how “dysfunctional gaming” is linked with psychological needs and behaviors, the Internet Institute carried out a survey with a sample size of 1,004.

Dysregulated Gaming

The study authors say that there is some merit in researching this type of dysregulated gaming as its own disorder. More significantly, according to the authors, the measured impact of the dysregulated gaming factor in the study “accounted for a practically insignificant share of variability in key outcomes… as compared with the role played by basic psychological needs”.

This evidence suggests that having information about the extent to which an adolescent’s video-game play is dysregulated provides no practically useful incremental information when viewed in light caregivers’ assessments of emotional, behavioral, peer, or conduct difficulties.

The authors, while talking about WHO’s recommendation, said that their work “strongly suggest[s] that dysregulated gaming is unlikely to be a practically significant route by which psychological-need frustration undermines psychosocial functioning.”

The authors concluded by saying that if the attention that researchers give to dysregulated gaming is justified, “Judged on the basis of the evidence reported in this study, we would conclude it is not.”

So What Does This Mean?

Even though the research did not find evidence to be conclusive, keep in mind that this study had a small sample size and is a single study disproving the relationship between psychological disorders being amplified by gaming.

In comparison, WHO’s recommendations are much more significant and liable to be true when classifying “hazardous gaming” and “gaming disorder”. The studies raise valid questions about the authenticity of these recommendations.


  • There are lots of nuances to the gaming culture that merit engagement with the gaming community rather than tagging on the stigma of a disease.

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