Policy on unreliable game addiction diagnoses puts the cart before the horse

Christopher J Ferguson, Anthony Bean, Rune Kristian Lundedal Nielsen, Mark P Smyth

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Internationally, several policies have been designed to prevent pathological or “problematic” gaming issues in youth, commonly referred to simply as “game addiction.” Particularly following the release of the World Health Organization’s “gaming disorder” diagnosis, policymakers may be inclined to enact further policies on this matter. With new data reflecting lack of success for South Korea’s shutdown policy, the efficacy of current policy efforts remains in doubt. Given continued controversies regarding whether pathological gaming or gaming disorder is best conceptualized as a unique disorder rather than symptomatic of other, underlying mental illnesses, little data has emerged to encourage policy interventions. By contrast, policy interventions at this juncture may risk doing considerable harm and wag the dog in the sense of reifying a pathological gaming disorder construct that remains problematic and under contentious debate in the field. We advise caution, ethnographic and qualitative research approaches, open science, etiological comprehension, and more time to fully understand whether pathological gaming is the best target for policy interventions and informing clinicians. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Popular Media Culture
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019


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