Video games work hard to hook players. Designers use predictive algorithms and principles of behavioral economics to keep fans engaged. When new games are reviewed, the most flattering accolade might be "I can't put it down."
Now, the World Health Organization is saying players can actually become addicted.
On Monday, "gaming disorder" will appear in a new draft of the organization's International Classification of Diseases, the highly regarded compendium of medical conditions.
Concerns about the influence of video games are dovetailing with increasing scrutiny over the harmful aspects of technology, as consumers look for ways to scale back consumption of social media and online entertainment.
The W.H.O. designation may help legitimize worries about video game fans who neglect other parts of their lives. It could also make gamers more willing to seek treatment, encourage more therapists to provide it and increase the chances that insurance companies would cover it.
"It's going to untie our hands in terms of treatment, in that we'll be able to treat patients and get reimbursed," said Dr. Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "We won't have to go dancing around the issue, calling it depression or anxiety or some other consequence of the issue but not the issue itself."