Korean game developers oppose classification of gaming as disease

By Lim Jeong-yeo
  • Published : Jun 10, 2019 - 15:28
  • Updated : Jun 12, 2019 - 14:23

A group of Korean game developers and companies said Monday they will oppose the Health Ministry plan to adopt the World Health Organization’s acknowledgement of gaming as a disease, instead labeling the pursuit as a healthy sport for those seeking fun.

In a statement directed at the Welfare Ministry and an association of addiction psychiatrists, game developers raised a skeptical voice in opposition to the classification.

“We are deeply concerned that the hundreds of papers written since 2014 have used 25 billion won ($21.1 million) government budget,” said the statement, jointly authored by the Korea Indie Game Society, Nexon’s labor union Starting Point, Smilegate’s labor union SG Guild and the Korea Mobile Game Developers Association.

“Over 89 percent of these papers are intentionally framed to support the argument that gaming leads to addictive behavior.” 

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo visits Riot Games’ LoL Park in central Seoul to watch the “League of Legends Champions Korea” summer season opening match on Wednesday. (Riot Games)

According to the statement, out of 671 papers studying game indulgence submitted during the same period of time to the global citation database Scopus, 91 percent of papers from Korea, China and Taiwan actively supported the concept of gaming disorder, while only 52 percent of papers from the US, the UK, France and Germany agreed with gaming disorder. Articles from Korea and China accounted for 35 percent of the entire canon of academic papers on game addiction, numbering some 4,000, the game developers said, reflecting the extent of negative prejudice against gaming in the two countries.

“Games are only one form of diverse entertainment culture, just like movies, television, internet, shopping and leisure sports,” the groups said. “If an individual’s play culture is pinned as disease on grounds of excessiveness, this would serve as a precedent for the second and third disorders that would restrict personal hobbies.”

The associations acknowledged that the current gaming culture has fallen short of expectations and vowed to reinvent the roughly 30-year-old Korean game industry to better serve the common good.

WHO member nations unanimously agreed to adopt the 11th revision to the International Category of Disease (ICD-11) that includes the categorization of excessive gaming as a mental disorder. To be diagnosed as a gaming addict, a person must exhibit the inability to balance life and gaming for at least a year.

Members of the five medical associations in Korea have said they support the WHO’s classification of gaming as a disease.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (