When it comes to addiction, often the first things that come to mind are drugs and alcohol, but there are other types of addictions as well, including addictions to playing video games. A video game addiction is defined as the compulsive playing of computer or video games, such that it interferes with everyday life. Those that are addicted to video gaming often play compulsively which can lead to some adverse effects. While an addiction to video games is not listed as an official mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there is ongoing research into the issue of compulsive game playing.
When a person is addicted to something, they need more of that thing to keep them satisfied, and if the individual does not get what they are craving, they may become irritable. Addiction can be to either a substance or behavior, and in the case of video game addiction, the addiction is to the behavior of game playing. Compulsive game playing can lead to some issues including mood swings, social isolation, and a diminished sense of imagination. Players often focus so much on their game achievements, that they exclude all other events in their lives.
There are several theories as to the possible causes of video game addictions. Some theorize that a built-in reward system presumed to be in humans may explain their potentially addictive nature. Some also think that gamers become addicted because it is a way for them to gain confidence and a feeling of satisfaction which they may not be able to get in the real world. Research has shown that many different video games satisfy a person’s basic psychological needs. Players will continue to play because of a connection to other players, rewards, and a sense of freedom. Research continues into not only the possible causes of video game addiction, but also the effects of addiction.
Several countries have taken the step of opening treatment centers to deal with the problem of a video game addict. These countries include the United States, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, and China. Due to research into gaming habits being relatively new, there is not much information on excessive gaming treatment available. Effective treatments for a video game addiction appear to be similar to those of other addictions. Treatments can include psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and possibly other means. Because issues with video game addictions do not seem to be going away, it is important that research continues into effective treatments.
While it may seem far-fetched, there have been deaths related to excessively playing video games. For the most part, these deaths have been caused by exhaustion from playing for an excessive amount of time. Deaths have been reported in the United States, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and Brazil.
Video Game Addiction Featured in Popular Culture
- Multiple episodes of The Simpsons feature scenarios in which characters struggle with video game addictions. Both Marge and Lisa become addicted to gaming in different events.
- Multiple episodes of South Park parody video game addictions.
- In an episode of the show Boston Legal, a child dies of a heart attack caused by exhaustion from playing video games for 48 hours straight.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, character Penny becomes addicted to a game called The Age of Conan.
- Video game addiction is also covered in episodes of Law & Order: SVU, and CSI: Miami.
Continued research into video and computer gaming addictions will hopefully uncover information that will aid in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment options that will further help medical professionals treat patients. In addition to the possibility of addiction, video games can substantially decrease a child or adult’s physical activity. Setting boundaries and rules for kids to ensure they are getting enough exercise as opposed to sitting in front of their gaming system may aid in the prevention of a video game addiction.
To learn more, check out the following pages:
- Addiction to Video Games No Fun
- The Psychology of Game Addiction
- Quiz: Is Your Kid Addicted to Video Games?
- Berkeley Parents Network: Computer Game Addiction
- Researchers Identify Risk Factors For Addictive Video Game Use
- Digital Citizenship: Game Addiction
- Identifying Game Addiction in Children & Adolescents
- Social Consequences of Online Gaming Addiction
- Correlates of Game Addiction
- Effect of Video Games on Child Development
- Gaming Addiction: Current Perspectives