The WHO proposes a "behavioral addiction pathology" for excessive video-game playing. But not one for a similar pattern of compulsive, harmful, endlessly looping use associated with smartphones and the internet in general. Ian Bogost writes that the proposed diagnosis reflects a desire to cast negative behaviors as the result of individual mental defects rather than more complex social, political, and economic factors at hand. The discrepancy between digital dependencies considered pathological and those considered perfectly normal may simply come down to pleasing lobbyists–or avoiding their displeasure.
But what about computers, smartphones, or the internet more broadly? Proposals for internet addiction have been advanced for possible inclusion in the DSM-V. In those cases, a similar reliance on the substance-abuse model persists, along with suspicions regarding the legitimacy of withdrawal and tolerance as diagnostic criteria. The WHO told me that it began evaluating the public-health implications of excessive use of computers, smartphones, and the internet in 2014, in response to concerns from its community. But despite those concerns, gaming disorder made it into the ICD-11 draft as the only "clinically recognizable and clinically significant syndrome" related to the broader category of computing and the internet.
Some researchers wonder if the WHO might be under pressure to codify gaming disorder. In 2017, an article in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice argued that two members of the WHO advisory group, Geoffrey Reed and Vladimir Poznyak felt political pressure to identify gaming disorder, particularly from member states where the consequences of excessive online gaming have been particularly extreme.