Video Game Addiction: Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?
Video Game Addiction: Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?
Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter are familiar names to nearly all of us. They are all best selling games of major video game consoles. Over 9.8 billion dollars were spent on video games in the United States during 2001 alone, and video game consoles are present in 36 million homes in the United States (1). With the increasing amount of time that people are spending on video games, one is left to wonder if it is possible to become addicted to video games. Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?
Addiction has been defined as "A primary, chronic disease, characterized by impaired control over the use of a psychoactive substance and/or behavior. Clinically, the manifestations occur along biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual dimensions (2)." While there is currently no category for video game addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3), which is the manual utilized to diagnose psychological disorders, video game addicts are often described by clinicians in the field as displaying many symptoms characteristic of other addictions. These behaviors include failure to stop playing games, difficulties in work or school, telling lies to loved ones, decreased attention to personal hygiene, decreased attention to family and friends, and disturbances in the sleep cycle (4). Withdrawal symptoms can even include behaviors as severe as shaking (5).
All addictions can be dangerous and harmful to the addicted person and others around him; however, video game addiction can be particularly detrimental to children. Video games are becoming increasingly popular with children of young ages, which in turn may raise the likelihood that these children will develop addictions to video games. Furthermore, playing violent games may be associated with a tendency to behave more aggressively, although the data are inconclusive about the cause and effect nature of this relationship (6). In a study by Irwin and Gross, children who played a violent video game displayed a higher level of aggression than children who played a nonviolent game (6). Similarly, in a study by Calvert and Tan, college students who played a violent video game reported more aggressive thoughts after playing the game than college students who played a nonviolent game (6). Although several researchers advocate the position that video games cause violent behavior in children and adults, there are also many researchers who support the opposite belief, which is that video games purge one's desire to act violently and thus reduce the amount of violence in which a person will engage (5). Other detrimental effects of video games include taking time away from a child's studies or homework and decreased social skills (5). Finally, despite possible detrimental effects of excessive video game playing, there are benefits to playing video games in moderation. For instance, video games may improve spatial abilities, the ability to create and apply multiple strategies, and may help develop critical analyzing techniques (7). Due to the nature of video games, psychological, social, and neurological factors have all been associated with excessive video game playing.
The psychological cycle of substance addiction and other maladaptive behaviors can be applied to video games as well. A person playing a video game feels an emotional high, commonly known as an adrenaline rush, as a result of his gaming tactics (8). He then plays the game more and pushes his physical and psychological limits in order to experience the emotional high. Eventually, he will again reach a level that stimulates the production of adrenaline. The cycle may continue until it leads to an unhealthy level of interaction with video games, which some professionals may label video game addiction. Even famous psychological effects such as the sunk cost fallacy can influence the addictive cycle. This fallacy occurs when a person feels compelled to continue performing a certain behavior because he has previously invested time in the behavior and does not want to feel as though his investment was wasted (9). Similarly, Dr. Timothy Miller, a clinical psychologist, states that many video game players may feel that they have wasted their efforts if they do not reach the next goal in a game, which may lead to additional time spent playing the game that the person otherwise would have spent in a more constructive task (4).
According to Dr. Orzack, the Director of Computer Addiction Services at McLean Hospital, social pressure or lack of social skills can also lead to video game addiction (4). Dr. Orzack suggests that many video game addicts have struggled with finding their place in society and as a result play video games in order to become part of a crowd. The players then may feel compelled to reach the next level of achievement in the game in order to flaunt their abilities in front of their peer group (4). While these social effects are important to consider when investigating the development of excessive video game playing, it is equally important to discuss the neurological effects as well.
Not only can excessive video game playing cause behavioral and social changes in a person, but it can also result in neurological changes as well. A recent study utilized positron emission tomography in order to show that levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine increased while playing video games (10). Dopamine is believed to mediate several behaviors, one of which is the experience of pleasure. For example, dopamine levels increase in emaciated rats when the rats are presented with food, and similar effects are found when water deprived rats are presented with water. Despite the positive effects of dopamine, high levels of the neurotransmitter have also been associated with addictions to drugs and substances (11). Because increased levels of dopamine have been found in people who are playing video games and because these effects are similar to the increased levels of dopamine in drug addicts, some researchers have hypothesized that higher levels of dopamine can produce a dangerous cycle leading to addiction of video games (11). However, because this research is fairly novel, studies replicating the data are necessary. Furthermore, the possibility of involvement of other neurotransmitters during video game play should be explored since it is possible that multiple neurotransmitters may interact in addictive behaviors. Finally, because this area of research is fairly new, many interesting questions can be raised. For instance, does excessive playing of video games cause a fundamental and permanent change in the dopamine system? If so, what are the subsequent effects on the pleasure systems of these individuals? Do these people require more dopamine to be released as a result of a decreased sensitivity to dopamine that was caused by the excessive play, in a way similar to other addictions (10)? If future studies demonstrate these patterns, and if they are considered in unison with the psychological and social ramifications of excessive video game playing, it can be concluded that the video game addiction can and does exist. In that case, the answer to the initial question of "Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?" is most certainly yes.
1)Assorted Gaming Statistics, A good reference for game statistics
6)Video games: Research, ratings, and recommendations, Contains many references for empirical studies
11)The Biochemistry of Human Addiction, Discusses the role of dopamine in addiction
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post comments on the Video Game Experiences Forum on Serendip)
07/12/2005, from a Reader on the Web
I find that when I play games that when I play some video i get a high, until I start to find my self doing the same thing over and over again. But just because you can get bored doesn't make it addictive. If you hit a jump on your bike for a while, eventually it gets boring. You just find a bigger jump.
Sure video games give an adreniline rush at times, but is excitment the main addictive factor? I have to disagree. More importantly, there are styles of play constantly practiced in MMORPGS that are not fun and not exciting, but felt to be necessary. First, this isn't just a kid thing. I know plenty of adults who waste time playing video-games, myself included (this is about my problem)... and I think it would be more appropiate to classify it as an obsessive behavior. (I'm no doctor, so I'll agree addiction works well as a loose definition.) My "addiction": I'd describe my problem using Tetris as an example. It's like the images get burned into my brain, and I'll see the shapes when I close my eyes (ecspesically be for I go to sleep or as I wake up). It seems to become predominant in my subconcious, and I feel a need to play the game to make the visions concrete. The problem is the patterns get stuck in my head. And it doesn't seem to matter what game I play. All video games are pattern oriented in some way: you must learn the pattern to kill the boss at the end of a level, learn patterns unique to various adversaries, etc. I think the addiction is based on trying to complete a pattern that has no end. Be it simple game of Tetris or a complex MMORPG. This is reinforced by being continually rewared in someway during the process: this can be points or (even better) gaining an ability or item to make your patterns more complex. In the highly addictive MMORPGS, there is a type of player (or style of play) who is addicted to the game but is not addicted to the adreneline rush. They are called farmers and grinders. It's also NOT A FUN way to play, but it is done by everyone who has played an MMORPG. The farmer will mine resources for hours upon hours, and can be without being interupted by adversaries (increasing points or gold). There are also groups that band together to increase the ability to farm. There is no type of adreniline rush playing in this way, but it is a style of play that is obsessive. Players will spend hours in one place farming the same area until physical exhaustion.(I've done it, and I've chatted with players who are barely awake who even fall asleep in front of the computer.) Then there is "Grinding". This is done by killing monsters for hours (increasing experiance points). There is no adreniline rush, because there is little danger invovled (the monsters cannot kill the character easily). In fact, there is no challenge to the player in this style of play; yet players will grind until exhaustion soley for the reward of points. In conclusion, there is an addictive quality to games that I have experianced. I doubt adreniline is the key to understanding video-game addiction. The excitment is just the hook. And worse, I doubt limiting time will help because the patterns get stuck in the mind of the addicted player and the thoughts can interfere with mental thought processes. For me (even when I am away from a game that I have been playing), I have a hard time trying to stop thinking about the patterns.
I'm a college student struggling with video game "addiction," and I heartily agree that the sunk cost fallacy plays a very large role in the "lure" of video games. While evidence suggests there is a possible chemical addiction to dopamine or adrenaline released when playing games, I would maintain that the "addiction" is much more psycological than chemical. Three terms used by gamers to describe other gamers are "Timmy," "Spike," and "Johnny." These are descriptors for three model personalities typified by gamers. "Timmy" likes fast cars and explosions, and general excitement. "Johnny" likes things that are aestheticly pleasing, and "Spike" is a competitive gamer whose enjoyment comes not from the game, but from comparing his gaming achievements to those of his peers. My point is that video games cater to each of these differing personalities in many different ways, providing psycological fullfulment that a gamer may otherwise be unable to get without them thus creating a psycological dependency or addiction.
I do feel gaming is a major addiction. I was addicted to the game Medal of Honor Allied Assault since September 2002, and even though I've moved onto other games such as cs source and motogp3 I still play "mohaa" to this day. I think its the joy of the pople you meet, the communitys and even the skill you gain. i have become (sadly) extremely brilliant at mohaa. But it is definitly addictive.
I was really pleased to find this site - I self-diagnosed my gaming addiction a few years ago. I based my assessment on the disruption of social and work life, the sense of a double-life, the guilt (about being juvenile, wasting time, wasting money) juxtaposed by pleasure (escapism), hiding the addiction from friends and loved ones, obsession to the point of time warp, etc. I agree with the previous poster that images and repetitive patterns get ingrained on your consciousness and that playing can become a compulsion with little pleasure. I used to think i was "gifted" when it came to games, and i developed a remarkable learning curve due to my total obsession with play. I haven't lost relationships (although I've lost lots of time), but I've been on and off the wagon for years with games. I think i pretty much have it under control, but I tend to go cold turkey for months or years, then binge for a few weeks to a few months.
I am a seventeen-year-old teen and I would say it’s highly likely that I have some sort of addiction towards video games. It started as a way having fun at first then as a way of getting over my inability to fit in at a new school that my parents enrolled me in. I did not play to brag about my achievements to my peers but instead to use the virtual world as a way of escape. I still have this problem, I loose sleep, don’t eat when should, but things off, don’t finish schoolwork, play to the point that my hands and fingers are in pain and bruised. Sometimes when start a new game that find really enjoyable I will imagine my self in the game ( this can be compared to daydreaming ) no matter where I am, walking, sleeping, ect. None of these problems bother me as much as something recognized recently, I will sometimes get urges to fulfill violent acts towards my friends, family, and even people I am unacquainted with. However I not sure if this has anything to do with videogames at all.
I live with a "gamer". His favorites include, NFL Madden and lately Socom III. We have had numerous discussions in regard to his game playing. His mother and father admittedly allowed game playing all throughout his childhood and this was a way to keep him "occupied" for hours at a time. I met him 5 years ago and while I noticed that he did have a game system, I never noticed that he played it. As we have dated this entire time, this situation has just come to be a problem in the last 2 years. My problem is that he is 28 years old. We have a home together, he has a loving girlfriend, two dogs, a great job and a lot of potential. While he never ever misses work (his hours are such that he gets plenty of days off anyway), he constantly misses "social" interaction with me and friends. It is a struggle to get him to go to a party or any social event that keeps us out for long periods of time and he obviously does not pay attention to his personal responsibilities...he has even started forgetting to brush his teeth on a daily basis... aside from personal hygiene, his responsibilities are minimal. I do not ask much from my boyfriend anymore because I know that not much gets done. I work and am away from the home 12-14 hours a day with just work and he is not. He comes home from his job and does not shower or eat, he goes to play. How can I stop this and not ruin our relationship. Keep in mind that I have done everything except for leaving him. I have even hidden his PS2 to get a LOT of backlash. I have never had to deal with this before and I do not want to threaten him with the prospect of my leaving. What do I do??? Any good ideas of how to stop this. I know he loves me but I'm done with taking second to a game. Christel Fannin
Playing video games is not addictive. There has been a lot of research into this subject matter after the Columbine incident, and although most of it was meant to prove that video games make people violent (was proven false), some of the studies were directed to the so called "computer game addiction". None of these studies have proven anything. Furthermore there is no link between dopamine and computer games, as so many people have said there was. Omar M.
I don't think video games are bad for anyone. I am a parent of three children two of them boys who love video games. They are good boys they don't do drugs,drink, or are they out doing god no's what.
Mario is not addictive! I grew up with mario! If nintendo read this there would be a LAWSUIT! You Don't know what you are talking about
I am the mother of a 17 year old who I believe may be addicted to video games. I am also a licensed substance abuse counselor. My concern is that I see some of the same types of dysfunctional behaviors of addiction in my son. He avoids friend and family, his school is definately suffering and when I recently took his gaming system away he become angry and violent. Afterwards he became dispondent. Is this withdrawal? I can't say. Recently a client of mine said he was no longer using drugs or alcohol but stated he was addicted to video games. He even quit his job so he could play more. I know that people don't think that this is a big problem...I get that, but my point is what if we are looking at and addiction here? How many people are we willing to write off on this learning curve? As a parent I feel completely responsible. I have been feeding this addiction since my son was old enough to hold a controller. He is even going to school to be a video game designer. Long story short... my son has few social skills, few friends and is now in withdrawal "literally". Tonight his father and I talked about sending him to a treatment program, seriously. I am even looking at how to finance the 6 week program which costs around $16,000! Money I would rather spend on his college education...only without some serious help I don't think he will make it to college! So if you think you might have a problem like this you probably do. As I tell my clients, if you are not sure if you have a problem...quit, and see what happens.
There already is On-Line Gamers Anonymous for people addicted to computer, video, on-line, MMORPG and any other kind of games. It is OLGA and the URL is www.olganon.org Visit the site and don't forget to go to the Pot of Gold on the site - the message board and read stories gamers and their family members and loved ones have shared. http://p198.ezboard.com/bolga No matter what the "Professionals" say, ask the people who are in the depths of this latest addiction, to see how they feel about this activity. It is serious and does ruin many lives and relationships. Elizabeth Woolley
Video games could be addictive, but I find that it's really more just a hobby for me, being young as I am, a way to spend time that can't really be spent on anything else.
I am 33 years old, and for the last 3 years I have wondered if video games were addicting. For me, I have an addictive behavior, but I never get addicted to just one thing... It may be 3 weeks at a time with an addiction, 2 weeks off, and then 3 weeks on again with a totally different high. When I am playing video games, I stay up late, get no sleep, and am completely unproductive at work. It is like I am in another world. I am not a violent person, and I don't like the violent games. I like the puzzle solving games, and fantasy games the best. I dream about those games, and sometimes, I get away from work at lunch to play them. I started very young when I got my Atari 2600, my Coleco, and finally when the mother of all gaming systems came out, the Commodore 64, I was in heaven. In the summer, I would play video games for 20 hours straight, and then sleep for 4, just to get up again and play them again until my parents kicked me off. I was only 11 when I was doing that destructive cycle. Now personally I think there are too many violent games, and many games are graphically exciting, but not challenging enough or creative enough. But I definitely know the feeling I get for instance when I play video games versus when I have done drugs is EXACTLY the same. Weird? No... the dopamine levels are affected whether its drugs, alcohol, gambling, or whatever addiction it is... and I would categorize video games along those lines. The key is moderation. Moderation of ALL the vices (drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn... whatever) is ok, but when you are like me, there is no moderation. It is either all or nothing. That is when it become detrimental to the psyche. My 2 + 2 cents
games are addicting. I started with a play station in 1998. I would start playing as soon as I would get home from work,or as soon as i would wake up on the weekends. I would be up at seven in the morning and play until two or three in the morning. On the weedays i would start playing as soon as I got home and played too 10 or 11 at night. i did this for a year. I neglected my wife and my daughter for that. I feel it didn't give me a high or a rush. It feels like a way out of reality. I didn't see the problem. My wife would get on me case about me playing all the time. I guess you could say I didn't care what anybody said or did, I kept on playing. The house could have been on fire and if i had time to take anything with it would be the ps. One night my wife had enough and smashed it. Things got out of hand that night. Then the PS2 came out and I bought it. At this time I thought I was over that. Guess again. I had the PS2 for about 2 years and she had enough and smashed that one. Now we got a computer. I started the same thing just different system. She brought it too my attention and i didn't see it at first. She stop it before it got out of hand. Now I'm going to limit my self. When my kids are in bed and I have some free time. I will get back to you about If IT works for me. Yes IT IS ADDICTING.
For Cristal Fannin There realy isn't an easy way to approach it. In his mind you are first. That's how I seen my family. But in reality they were put second. I think you should realy make him take a good look at his self. I you have a camcorder, record him for one week. Then tell him you have something very intersting to show him. Let him see what he looks like with the controller in his hands,his eyes glued to the tv. This might bring it to his attention. Write a nice long letter about how it is affecting your life. I wish you the best of luck ... Reader on the web, 2 June 1006
I have slowly come to realise that I am addicted to playing PC video games. The thought terrifies me as, unlike console games which are independently associated with the television, the personal computer game distracts and consumes my ability to focus on productive work. While I am not sure whether it would be responsible to "blame" my recent failures and shortcomings in life on video games, I have found myself in the past two years playing thirty to forty (I think this is probably too low... but I have never really counted the time) sitting at my laptop playing one immerse game after another. It will happen that an entire day will pass without my knowledge as I am sitting at the keyboard and mouse, repetetively following the adventures of some fantasy character or war simulation or whathaveyou for endless hours. It's effect has past on to my personal life where I will find myself removing myself from my friends and family, my girlfriend, and all associates to lock myself inside my dorm room wasting time with the damn things. I wonder whether or not this obsessive behaviour has been triggered by a chronic depression I have experienced these last two years, or whether it has in some manner influenced this illness. The results have been nearly catastrophic: I have been expelled from my university, and I have not been able to focus or write for two and a half years. There is talk of "moderation" and "addictive personalities" but, despite dabbling with a plethora of drugs and alcohol in high school and my first years of college, I have not encountered anything as sinister. Now I realize that my medical illness has stemmed from other aspects of my personal life and genetics, but I cannot stop to wonder at the effect of my game playing. The answer seems clear enough: there is nothing healthy about video games. Unlike sports and exercise, they do not strenghten and condition the body; unlike reading and study, they do not develop the mind and critical faculty; and unlike sex, food, wine, and conversation they do nothing to stimulate the human spirit and social character. This blight has nearly ruined my life (I am only 22 and, after therapy, returning to finish my Bachelor's), and I would warn anyone about its seductive charms. How many other addicts have thought themselves impervious to their drug? Heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, compulsive gambling, pain killers... The list continues. Yet, when I think of it, there is nothing quite like the unreal feeling of accomplishment in the video game that, when one is caught in the grip of spiritual and psychological despair, encourages continued retrogression whilst presenting the dizzying feeling that "yes, look, I am controlling something; I am doing something." Only one more turn, one more level, one more mission ... Reader on the web, 22 June 2006
I am a girlfriend of a gamer and yes I do believe there should be a gamers anonymous or a addac tyoe group for the families and friends.
We have two children together and he is on the game 7 days a week. He calls it a hobby but it is certainly more than that. When we met 10 years ago I didn't realize the extent of this. I bought him a Play Station System for Christmas because I knew he liked it and then the next year a Play Station 2. How foolish is that?!
Now the game is Warcraft. We had split three times because I just couldn't take it. Each time I came back he said he wouldn't play it anymore and a month down the road, there it was again.
One of the problems now is that I have become so used to him being gone that I don't know how to handle him being around. If I get upset and ask hime to come off it for awhile he just sits around and I am used to having my space. He doesn't do anything.
My kids are affected a great deal because as soon as I leave the house daddy goes on the game. I have alot of guilt about this. I want to hire a sitter for the time I am out but this angers him.
It's very lonely and I don't know how long I can hang in there. I don't want to have a life like this forever but I love him. It's all quite confusing.
So, if you know of a group in the Calgary, Ab area I would love to know.
Any feedback would also be appreciated ... Chris Von Bieker, 8 October 2006
I never would have believed that video games were addictive if I hadn't seen it first hand. My fiance is totally addicted to video games and it drives me insane. People must keep in mind that there are thousands of personality types in the world and just because one person or several people do not develope this problem it is there for other and a major concern. I am a little bit older then my fiance and we have a one week old baby and both hold jobs while trying to go to school. He is so obbsessed with games that he has started to miss class and negelect his work, me and our child. Today he played for 10 hours straight. He get very anrgy and almost violent when I ask him to stop or walk infront of him and he messes up. It consumes all his time and energy. Though he doesnt believe he has a problem, I know its there ... Havala Strauss, 6 December 2006
I happen to think that there is a good and bad side to all things in life. Anything is okay, in moderation. I have a nine year old son, and truthfully, I don't like him to play video games during the week. He is allowed to play from Friday nights to Sunday aftternoons. No more and no less. I grew up without them and frankly I turned out just fine. I don't have any passion or dislike for them, but he absolutely loves them. I have read studies that suggest that it improves hand-eye coordination.....WHATEVER!!!
Like I said.....everthing is okay from food to sports to video games....as long as it is in moderation ... Michelle, 27 February 2007
I am the wife of a person who is addicted to online games. We are on the verge of divorce, because he cannot do anything, but play online games when he gets home from work. I have tried everything to change this, but nothing works. He does not care that he is destroying our relationship. He instead gets angry with me, when I try to talk to him about making things better. In fact, I have noticed that since his playing these games, he has become more aloof, removed and detached. He is extremely cold now and has no compassion for what I feel. It's like living with a ghost. I cannot say anything about him getting off the computer, or he becomes angry. So, yes, I believe there is much need for research and support groups for the people living with this problem. I believe it is a bigger problem than this country wants to admit to. It is sort of like the "secret addiction." No one wants to believe that this is a real problem for so many ... Rosita Jaime, 6 October 2007
You're right, this is an addiction. However, the only way it can be resolved is by Jesus. Throughout the Bible, Jesus performed various acts of deliverance on people with evil spirits within them, causing them to sin. Addiction is an evil spirit that is accepted into the soul (one's own thoughts, feelings, and emotions)when someone does something against the will of God...This is something serious we are dealing with, not some heretical talk that many think is bogus...this is the Truth of what Christ is about ... Jane, 10 December 2007