NEW DELHI : Opinion is divided in India over growing warnings that video game addiction could be a form of disease, with its quarter-of-a-billion-strong gaming community pushing back and doctors saying they do so at their own risk.

“Gaming is just another form of entertainment. With older forms of entertainment such as books and movies you won’t find such categorization. Reading too many books or watching too many movies won’t be labelled as book or movie addiction. It is just that new forms of entertainment like games that often get stigmatised like this," said Oliver Jones, co-founder and director of Bombay Play, a Bengaluru-based game developer.

Jones, however, acknowledges that there are negative aspects associated with games, such as violence and gore.

Ayush Bhardwaj, a Delhi-based gamer, believes labelling too much gaming as an addiction is not accurate— there are peaks and troughs.

Someone who spends an entire week playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey at the time of its release and then doesn’t touch it for months cannot be called an addict. But there are games that can be harmful.

“Games which keep players occupied by making them come back to check their progress at frequent intervals are far more addictive than other games. Similarly, players are more likely to be addicted to interaction-driven team games like PubG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) or Fortnite," said Bhardwaj.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially included gaming disorder as a disease in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11), placing it next to gambling disorder.

Gaming disorder is “characterized by a pattern of persistent and recurring gaming behaviour" where a player begins to give priority to gaming over other daily activities and interest to a point where it begins to affect their relationships, work and education.It has caused doctors in India to sit up and take note.

“While gaming disorder affects a small proportion of the people who play video games, anyone who spends excessive time gaming is vulnerable to this condition," cautioned Dr Samir Parikh, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

Gaming addiction is not limited to teenagers and is prevalent in adults as well. “A wide range of adults are lost in the maze, before they know it. Adults with a competitive streak, without a job or with less work load are more likely to fall for it. It is important to differentiate between an interest and addiction," advises Dr Priyanka Kapoor, clinical psychologist, BLK Hospital.

Online gaming in India is expected to cross $1 billion by 2021, as per a KPMG and Google report. According to a March report by KPMG, the number of Indian gamers has grown to 250 million in 2018, from 20 million in 2010.

According to Dell’s 2018 “State Of Family" report—based on responses from more than 5,500 PC gamers in 11 countries including India—48% of gamers are in the age group of 20-30, while 12% are in their teens. About 40% gamers are older adults and 47% are female.

Several international gaming trade bodies have criticized the WHO decision as premature and called for more research. In a July 2018 study published in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions, researchers argued that moving from research construct to formal disorder requires a much stronger evidence base than what currently exists. Keeping such factors in mind and the effect of diagnostic classification and its wider societal impact, they urged the WHO to postpone the formalization.