Nintendo President Addresses Gaming Addiction

By Paul Gaita 02/14/19

Nintendo's president Shuntaro Furukawa outlined the ways the company can help address gaming addiction during a recent Q&A.

person with gaming addiction playing Nintendo switch

As the debate about whether a dependency on video games qualifies as a legitimate medical condition continues to rage in both the gaming and mental health communities, the president of Nintendo spoke about his company's efforts to address the issue at a recent investor meeting.

During a Q&A at a corporate policy and financial results briefing, Shuntaro Furukawa said that Nintendo has added features to its gaming products that will allow parents to reduce or limit the amount of time that children can spend with the game. Such features, said Furukawa, is "one way we can face the issues."

Furukawa said that the core of the problem was "more about becoming overly dependent on video games than is about any issues with the games themselves," and assured investors that Nintendo had taken measures to address the concerns. "One thing we have done as a company that creates games is to implement features that allow parents to limit the time that their children can play games."

Such features, as well as making the public aware of them, is "one way" that the company can address concerns about gaming addiction, said Furukawa, though no additional measures were addressed during the Q&A.

Furukawa's comments come on the heels of a fact-finding survey issued by Japan's Ministry of Health to estimate the number of people who may be addicted to gaming as well as the impact on their lives.

According to the Japan Times, the ministry launched its investigation in late 2018 and will assemble data from medical institutions until March of 2019 at the earliest to provide statistics.

Current numbers of individuals in Japan who qualify as dependent on gaming are unknown, but the Japan Times article cited figures from Susumu Higuchi, director of the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction, who said that 1,500 people annually seek treatment at the center for internet addiction, and 90% of that number were described as "gaming addicts" between the ages of 10 and 19.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was including "gaming disorder" in its most recent revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) compendium, and based its decision on "reviews of available evidence" and testimony from a "consensus of experts from different disciplines." The decision was rejected by members of the international gaming industry, which cited the need for more research into the alleged disorder before it was included in the ICD-11.

The Entertainment Software Association also cited statements by the American Medical Association (AMA) that opposed its addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, though as PC Games Insider noted, the AMA also expressed concern about the "behavioral, health and societal effects of video game and internet overuse."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.