Video Game Addiction: Fact or Fiction?

story at Green Pixels tackles the topic of game addiction and questions whether it is a serious health threat or just hype by an uninformed media. After numerous mainstream stories trying to use video games as a scapegoat for everything from poor grades to obesity to mass murder, the topic is a legitimate one to address.

The story delves into media coverage and academic studies, as well as the use of the term "addiction":

The word, "addiction" gets tossed around incorrectly in most media outlets. According to psychotherapist and author Dr. Tina Tessina a true addiction is "when the obsession, activity or substance is creating havoc in the person’s life. That is, causing job problems, relationship problems, money problems, or problems with law and is out of control and therefore an addiction."

The article concludes:

At the end of the day, this is a debate that has not been definitely resolved and will likely be something we’ll continue to hear about in the coming years. If you’re worried you or someone you love truly is addicted to games, have that person evaluated by a mental health professional. As for the rest of us, let’s all use common sense in our gaming. Take breaks, don’t skip meals, and don’t call off work to level up your character in WOW.

It’s an interesting debate on the topic and the article does a good job of being objective on the issues, rather than the extremes of the gamer side or mainstream side.

Where do your views fall in this debate?

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  1. limp says:

    I agree with most folks here. Yes addiction to gaming can happen, just look at me! Seriously though, if your kid is flunking school, doesn’t get out to exercise, no friends, then it’s worth looking at. Hard to define though just like food. Can you be addicted to food? Yes, but just because you enjoy food a lot doesn’t mean you are addicted. If you are out of control then maybe you are addicted. People will notice behaviour issues long before the addict. Honestly, it’s not a big issue otherwise there would be 12 step programs for gamers all over the place.


    24/7/365 Gaming Fanatic!

    My Halo Reach website!

  2. Vinzent says:

    Of course games can become addictive. I have a co-worker who once lost her job because she skipped an entire week of work playing WoW. However, if it were games that were the decicding factor in addiction, I would have been lost to WoW as well. As it is I got bored and moved on with my life. Therefore the fault is not games, but the personalities of the user that are the issue.

    Anything can become an unhealthy addiction, even faith. I’m reminded of the Flagelants and how they used to whip themselves bloody to become spiritually pure. Or you could look at the rabid soccer/futbol fans of Europe, whose unhealthy infatuation with the sport has caused the deaths of hundreds or thosands in riots.

  3. Shahab says:

    As a recovered drug addict and avid game player I can say with out a doubt that while at certain times in my life I may have played up to 8 hours a day (not very often these days) video games have no addictive qualities ANYTHING like that of drug or alcohol addiction.

    Games are addictive like TV is addictive, it is fun and if you don’t have a lot going on in your life it is easy to fill your time up with it.

  4. Hypevosa says:

    I have to say I believe that it is possible to be addicted to a game, just like anything else in life.  What some people seem to not understand, is that some of us choose this as our form of media.  I know people who have books they can’t stop reading… plenty of people who can’t stop watching television… and damn near every one of us knows someone who NEVER takes that damned IPOD bud out of their ear.  Our media choice is videogames, and there’s no problem with that.

    However it is something that is more stimulating than most other media.  A book, a TV show, a movie, a song, are just raw data that we take in and accept and maybe think about a bit…  A videogame, is something that YOU manipulate based on what you take in.  Interactive media – the partaker is just as much involved in the experience as the person who forged it.  This is what separates it from the other media – the two dogs will always die at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows, Johnny Dep will always be Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean (the originals, should they remake them), and House will always have used a cane during his TV show.  I believe it is from this difference I believe that videogames have the ability for forge true addiction moreso than most other media.

    True addiction is what’s stated in the article – but I also believe it’s something more.  It isn’t just the fact that the addiction "wreaks havoc on your personal life", but it’s the fact that despite the havoc wrought you you can’t DO anything about it.

    There is also the case of true physical addiction to videogames.  I don’t know if it’s well documented or studied, but it is apparently possible to be actually physically addicted to videogames.  I have a friend, who actually will suffer from withdrawl if he doesn’t play videogames for a few days.  He actually NEEDS the stimulus it provides that no other media can.  He starts to get cold sweats and headaches, and various other problems until he just picks up the controller or a mouse and keyboard and plays for a little while.  Ironically enough though, he doesn’t have a "true addiction" as his gaming habits DON’T "wreak havoc" on his personal life.  He manages it perfectly well, though I’m sure he’d like to not HAVE to play games every now and again.

    "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." ~Best quote ever, Albert Einstein

  5. TBoneTony says:

    Gaming addiction is so over hyped.

    All you need is parents who don’t know anything except for what they know on TV, then you have kids who are into something that parents don’t understand. Add in a news station and newspapers who are desperate for money and something interesting to sell news. Add in the hype and the scare tactics that are overblown and exagerated and it all adds up to something like gaming addiction.

    Gaming addiction is not really scary at all, just like global warming, it exists but not as big as other people make it out to be.


  6. janarius says:

    I know one study that examined players’ use of voice technology in MMOG and its relative association with internet addiction.

    My views about video game addiction is that it does exist and they do need professional help (to assess and treat). There will be a lot of debates, a lot of challenges in formulating treatment plans and a lot of temptation in implementing government policies restricting online gaming. Right now, we’re not facing the level of problems seen elsewhere (like South Korea and Japan), this should give us some insight in creating reasonable preventive measures.

  7. Father Time says:

    I wonder if anyone’s ever attempted to study how much the ability to interact with other humans adds to a video game’s addictiveness.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  8. Father Time says:

    As I’ve said before my dad used to be addicted to online chess possibly due to the fact that my brother and I wouldn’t play him because he was a lot better than us.

    So yes you can get addicted to video games although i don’t think they’re anything special in terms of addictiveness.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  9. Cerabret100 says:

    let’s all use common sense in our gaming. Take breaks, don’t skip meals, and don’t call off work to level up your character in WOW.

    yes, common sense is what should rule most of this discussion.

    That being said, doing one of these things everyonce in a while isn’t addiction either.

    Hell, i remember starting the second half of the original Condemned when i woke up one day, around 9, finished it, and proceeded to have my jaw drop when i saw it was about 5 hours later at 2 o’clock and i hadn’t eaten breakfeast or lunch. not addiction but just being drawn in to a great game.

    Sure my 3 day Kingdom Hearts 2 marathon when i first bought it (beat it too, 50 hours in said 3 days) was probably a little on the addict side, but it was summer vacation and a particularly nasty weather week so i think it slides.

  10. sqlrob says:

    Do you agree that gambling can be an addiction?

    If you move it from a physical board to a screen, does it change? If so, why?


    I think addiction (or at least, obsession as mentioned in another comment) is real. I don’t think it’s severe enough to be a problem.


  11. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    I mean the reason that they get addicted in the first place. Having a few beers (or a lot of beers) now and again doesn’t make you addicted to it. It’s when people start to see booze as a support or replacement for something that it starts. After long enough behaviour like that they also become physically addicted.

  12. Alyric says:

    As others have mentioned, addictions like this (video games, gambling, etc) certainly fall under the textbook (and clinical) definition of addiction.

    I prefer, however, to use the term obsession. Oh, it may not be quite as accurate from a medical standpoint – something can become an obsession without affecting your life quite so adversely – I just prefer to separate addictions with a physical component (nicotine, narcotics, etc) from solely psychological ones. 

    There are two main reasons for this: I believe that failing to make that distinction does a disservice both to those struggling with compulsive behaviors, as well as people suffering from physical addictions.  Be honest, the first image that pops into your head when you hear ‘addict’ is probably not a person staring at a computer screen and clicking frantically.  On the flip side, you can’t tell a heroin addict that you broke your WoW addiction by just walking away, and he can do the same.

    Finally, when hearing the word ‘addict’, there’s a subconcious secondary reaction for most people: ‘What are they addicted to?’.  There’s a sort of unspoken blame game played – sure, they may have gotten themselves into it, but now the game is holding all the power. It’s the game’s fault. Look at the next two sentences:

    "Jack is addicted to World of Warcraft."

    "Jack is obsessed with World of Warcraft."

    The first sentence is subtly shifting the blame on WoW, the second correctly identifies Jack as the one with a problem.

    But hey, that’s just my two cents.

  13. Zerodash says:

    I took a day off of work to play WOW and drink RedBull.  It was one of the best days off I ever had- and I’ve lived a fairly exciting life.  Addicted? Nope, but I know how to spend a rainy day off quite well.

  14. kagirinai says:

    Much like the modern abuse of the scientific definition of ‘theory’, the average person uses ‘Addiction’ much more causally for anything that gets done compulsively or with high frequency. But the equivilence of the casual use of addiction compared to the medical use is where people get all screwed up. Saying ‘I’m addicted to Halo’ isn’t the same as being actually addicted, but some people will see it that way.

    It doesn’t help that many older people who never got in on gaming don’t understand the appeal or even the extent of the interaction. They see games as unstimulating, unintelligent, isolating activities, when gamers (and often studies) will argue hard in opposition. People who don’t understand it see gaming as something more like a vice than a hobby and act accordingly.

    And like any other time, the key to clearing up the misunderstanding is to communicate and educate, and I think we’re winning that battle over time.

    [Certain exceptions and allowances have to be made for psychological addictions, as mentioned by others, but that’s not an issue with games and I think we all know that.]

  15. Beacon80 says:

    Slightly different than booze.  Alcohol is a physically addicting substance.  Everything else on your list, like video games, is a purely mental addiction.

  16. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    Agreed. There is no single condition called "Video game addiction". People can get addicted to games the same way they get addicted to booze, sex, food, gambling. It is replacing/blocking out/dealing with something in their life that they cannot deal with in healthy ways and that is a fault in the person or their life, not the game.

  17. Lagwolf says:

    I suspect the reason the media love this story is partly out of self-interest. They would much rather you passively watched their content rather than playing an interactive video game. Pretty much the whole video game addiction hysteria is a nonsense whiped up by religious types, psychologists looking to get on TV and government types wishing to meddle. 

    There are the weak-minded that will get addicted to virtually anything. If the world was adjusted for them it would be a rather boring and taste-free place. 

  18. Beacon80 says:

    I absolutely believe you can be addicted to video games, but you can be addicted to just about anything.  There’s nothing inherently addictive about video games.  I think like most addictions, it’s a symptom, not a cause and should be treated as such (i.e. find out what made them escape into video games in the first place and fix that)

  19. Andrew Eisen says:

    Can you be addicted to video games (in the sense that you play them to the detriment of your health, personal, and/or professional life)?  Yes, of course.

    Is it the fault of the game?  No, of course not.


    Andrew Eisen

  20. insanejedi says:

    It does exist. Is it special? no. It’s just like any other addiction (short of physical and mental addictional substances like drugs), it’s just this is new and the elderly and sometimes parents don’t understand it so they view it as the ill’s of society. Many parents would complain that you play games whether you got admitted to a professional team or not, but few would complain if you were playing football with your friends at 6:00 pm.

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