Research into Game Addiction

After noticing that last weekend Alchemy (a game for smart phones) had seemed to have taken over my flatmates’ lives and then finding that this week my fingers have been permanently glued to my iPhone playing Fruit Ninja all weekend, I felt that it was appropriate to investigate research into gaming. Why do we get so hooked on these games that can’t we put our phones down and if there is really such thing as a “gaming addiction”.

As research into the gaming culture is only relatively new (starting from around the 1990s), gaming addiction has not been recognised as a mental health condition and therefore has not been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). However, researchers are still investigating into the world of gaming by linking them to recognisable related disorders, such as gambling.  Griffiths and Hunt (1998) conducted a questionnaire study with 387 teenagers, in order to find out if people are dependent on games. They used a scale adapted from the DSM-III-R criteria for pathological gambling and found that 1 in 5 of the teens were dependant on computer games (boys more so than girls)! The earlier children began playing computer games it appeared the more likely they were to be playing at “dependent” levels. However, the ecological validity of the study could be questioned, as the participants were only teens they have less responsibilty than adults so them being dependent on games isnt so much effecting their lives. It would be interesting to see the results if the study was conducted on adults.

It is suggested that player’s psycho-social dependence may occur due to the reinforcement that the game offers, as Griffiths claims that“all addictions (whether chemical or behavioural) are essentially about constant rewards and reinforcement”. It could be suggested that people’s social dependency on computer games may be due to video games that allow players to interact with others and create online relationships…  this can lead to shocking and extreme cases of some gamers finding these relationships more important than their real life relationships. *

Griffiths (2009) puts forward the idea that not all gamers who play excessively have an addiction or are dependent on the game. Data was collected from two case studies in order to distinguish excessive gaming from addictive gaming. Both participants played games for up to 14 hours a day, however, their reasons for playing games so excessively were different. They were very different in terms of psychological motivation and the meaning and experience of gaming within their lives. One of the gamers was considered to be an addict as he felt as though the game was an important part of his life which lead to the game having negative impact on other areas of his life. Whereas the other gamer just played for enjoyment and the game didn’t affect other aspects of his life. Griffiths also concluded that an activity cannot be described as an addiction if there are few (or no) negative consequences in the player’s life even if the gamer is playing 14 hours a day. This study would be more valid if there were more participants, as we do not know if these two individuals can be generalised for every gamer. It could be that most people who play games exessively are finding that it has a negative impact on other areas of their life.

In conclusion, gaming is now known as one of the most popular past-times so this could be a reason why so many people are spending excessive lengths of time on games! As we have games at our fingertips, and its usually raining outside, who wouldn’t want to sit indoors shooting their TV or chopping up virtual fruit from the comfort of their sofa (or bed)?!  Furthermore, even though a lot of adolescents may spend a lot of time on games, if they don’t put it before their health and real-life relationships… everything should be ok.  I do think it’s a concern for gamers who show addictive behaviours towards games, however APA suggested (2007) that there is not enough evidence or research to conclude that video game addiction is a ‘real’ disorder and therefore it will  not be accepted into the latest DSM this year.

During this blog I received a text off my boyfriend saying he’d beaten my Fruit Ninja high score, so now I know that I’m not mentally unwell, I am going to say goodbye and continue my night on Fruit Ninja. BYE!

Oh one last thing, if anyone is interested in further reading (or an Anrgy Birds addict) then check this website out… actual explanations of WHY you are addicted to the game… clever, clever, game makers


14 thoughts on “Research into Game Addiction

  1. francesdevine says:

    This is actually of real interest to me as I too have spent far to long playing fruit ninja (however I don’t like to spend money so only have the freebe version – this hasn’t stopped me playing it constantly even though I can never get a score past 250). I also live in a house full of ‘gamers’. For about half of the boys the games are seen purely as a hobby, if they have something more pressing to do, and if something of interest appears they will happily leave their game for a day or so, however one of the boys is constantly playing countless games. This year (despite gaining a girlfriend) he keeps himself shut up in his room, rarely socializes with us, and plays games instead of university work constantly, causing him to get kicked off the four year course he wanted to do, and is instead forced to do the three year.

    Like you mentioned, playing games is fine as long as it doesn’t affect your everyday life. However in this case it definitely is. On the DSM-IV scale,If this were a different addiction he would be classed as suffering from it. Yet because research into this area is so new, it is not really classed as a disorder, despite correlations being mentioned monthly in the news about ‘violent games causing violent behavior’* However I think it all depends on the game (playing mario kart will not cause you to go out and murder someone) but also the duration you play it for, constantly keeping yourself in a dark room staring at a screen is not beneficial for your health regardless of the type of game you play.

    -sorry for the essay 🙂


  2. penguinsandcheese says:

    Wow! Such an interesting topic! What I think is quite interesting is the power of suggestion. By this, I mean as soon as I saw that your house mates were addicted to Alchemy, I felt compelled to go on my own phone and download it to see what the fuss is about.
    The games that get really popular are the ones which have a lot of ‘buzz’ around them, mostly from word of mouth. I mean, I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t heard of Angry Birds, and so when I got my smart phone, this was the first game I downloaded because I had to see what all the fuss was about.
    When research was done into the matter, people were asked what is most likely to influence them to buy something. The majority said word of mouth, while online reviews got the lowest percentage.
    It’s of course not just games. An example comes from special previews of films. Previews are often offered to people such as taxi drivers or hair dressers who spend their day talking to people and may spread word of mouth about the film widely.

  3. fraseral says:

    Although gaming addiction isn’t actually classed as an addiction in the DSM there are obvious cases of people showing extreme behaviors similar to that of drug addiction. Including people who have committed crimes against close family who have tried to take the games from them, including murder. Another example of gaming addiction gone too far is the case of Seungseob Lee from south Korea. He entered a gaming cafe, played for 50 hours straight and died of cardiac arrest. These obsessive behaviors obviously demonstrate extreme addiction. Although these may be the extremes, the signs of every day addiction can be seen and i believe will only become more evident as games become more easily accessible

  4. zjww says:

    Although Gaming addiction has been proposed and rejected for the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders I believe they should take it more serious as there are so many cases of violence due to gaming such as a New Mexico woman named Rebecca Colleen Christie was convicted of second degree murder and child abandonment, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, for allowing her 3 and a half-year-old daughter to die of malnutrition and dehydration while occupied with chatting and playing World of Warcraft online. Also Tyrone Spellman, 27, of Philadelphia, was convicted of third-degree murder for killing his 17-month old daughter in a rage over a broken Xbox. With cases such as this it would be wise for psychologists to further explore the possibility of gaming addiction being a mental disorder.

  5. tinastakeon says:

    I remember the first console we had, well, I remember pong, that was possibly the most peaceful family Christmas in our household. We would usually sit around the table and play monopoly, which would always end in tears, usually mine, because I was the youngest and not very good at it. So, when we got that game console (it may have been an atari) that was what we played after dinner, and it was an easy enough game that we all enjoyed. As I grew up I saw lots of different games consoles, and the sophistication of games today was unbelievable when compared to that game of pong.
    The interesting thing about gaming, and computers and technology such as iphones, is that they have become an integral part of our lives. It’s quite normal to own technology and to seem to be hooked on it, we all check our phones, emails, facebook etc, and when there’s nothing else to do, a lot of us will play games. I do believe that for the most part it is harmless, I’ve seen children who seemed to be surgically attached to their gameboys grow up to be level headed and healthy adults.
    Addiction to gaming though is surely more likely to be seen in an individual who is more likely to suffer with addictive tendencies.

  6. ksgs says:

    Even though APA (2007) as you mentioned did not consider taking it as a real disorder, it looks that like some countries take this video gaming addiction serious. For example United States, Canada, Netherlands, China and South Korea. These countries opened some treatment centers (Anthony, 2006).
    But it has been found that research is still in preliminary stages because there are only few clinical trials and not completed meta-analysis. But it was found that the most effect treatment for dependencies and addictions is a combination of psychotherapy, psychopharmacology and a “12 step” programs (Freeman, 2008).
    These countries started treatment centers due to notable deaths. It is told that the deaths occurred due to exhaustion from playing video games (and other games) for excessive period of time (Wikipedia, 2012).
    I was shocked to read that when I read the last point in Wikipedia about the deaths. I never thought that excessive playing over excessive period of time could lead to death.

    Nice blog. ☺

  7. 1jessicakes says:

    What a great topic Sinae!
    Although as you stated, ‘game’ addiction isn’t falling into this model of the DSM but its previous-to-2009 version was in constant debate [] [].
    Within the Psychiactric Times, Internet Addiction Disorder was advocated to be removed from the DSM due to it’s close correlational link to a specialised obsessional-compulsive disorder rather than addiction. Block (2009) however has some interesting cultural differences to this disorder [] claiming that it most certainly does exist and warrants to be within the DSM-5, but should only be diagnosed upon extreme interference in daily life. Apparently, it is one of the biggest health concerns in places like Korea and Asia; many heart-attacks and extreme social dependance occur at the internet cafés! And currently, Europe and America are the only places not taught to screen for the disorder. This definitely does get you thinking! I personally believe, that anyone can be addicted to anything; and warranting every form of dependance or addiction within the DSM would make its pages a mile longer than they already are! Perhaps a reclassification for a generalisation of addictive behavioural disorders or dependance disorders may be much more suited!

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