Are you a video game addict?

The medical science and psychological communities are still somewhat divided on the issue of video game addiction and if such a thing even exists. Since video gaming isn’t a substance based activity, an addiction to the pastime would be one of psychological dependency that causes a person to be unable to tear themselves away from their favourite game despite negative consequences.

Currently, the hindrance to classifying such a thing as a medically defined addiction is a lack of solid research and peer review into the subject. Of course, that doesn’t mean a problem doesn’t exist, as is often tragically illustrated in cases of death, neglect and self-abuse.

Gamers have died simply because they haven’t nourished themselves or can’t tear themselves away for a short break from a marathon gaming session. Parents have turned into monsters, neglecting their children, and in the most brutal cases, killing them, all because of a video game.

However, these are extreme cases, and there may be a number of contributing factors, so we should be wary of drawing the immediate conclusion that video games can be dangerously addictive. The mainstream tabloid media is typically guilty of this kind of flawed logical deduction – they love a good scapegoat and video gaming has been known to suffer the brunt of a sensationalist story. Even the dental industry isn’t beyond targeting gaming stereotypes, suggesting that packaging a toothbrush alongside a video game is a good way to prevent tooth decay caused by poor dietary habits. No mention of actually doing some parenting however.

Perhaps more constructive are those that are raising dialogue on the issue (although the cynics among us may see a shameless cash-in) – Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap; Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction; New Book Promises Help With Game Addiction.

South Korea is a global digital trend-setter and perhaps taking a look at that country can give us insight into an evolving social problem. South Korea is a prime example of a nation struggling with digital addiction. The current estimate is that of their population of ±48.8 million people, about 2 million are addicted to the Internet and video games.

The South Korean government has implemented numerous social plans to try and combat the problem, from enforced monitoring of minors, to voluntary monitoring programs designed to help adults curtail their habits. They have even gone so far as to claim success in treating StarCraft addiction through the use of anti-depressants.

The medical community is beginning to delve into this topic, and recently the world may have seen the emergence of its first professor with a PhD in gaming addiction. In November 2010, Dr. Jeroen Lemmens of the University of Amsterdam published and successfully defended his dissertation – Causes and Consequences of Pathological Gaming.

Lemmens states that: “adolescent gamers with pre‐existing psychosocial vulnerabilities, such as loneliness, low social competence, and low self‐esteem, are more likely to become pathologically involved withgames. [The pathological use of games] can seriously disrupt the lives of players and their families, [but] it is important that we do not overstate the dangers of computer and video games, [as for the vast majority] games are nothing but a source of enjoyment and pleasure.”

Speaking to GamePolitics, Lemmens said “I also think it is worth noting that our findings indicate that games themselves are not addictive. However, certain adolescent males with pre-existing psychosocial vulnerabilities are more susceptible to developing pathological involvement, especially with games that have online multiplayer components. It seems likely that the social interaction in these games is used to compensate for their real-world social deficiencies.”

Offering some advice to parents dealing with children exhibiting pathological gaming habits, Lemmens said: “Simply reducing the amount of time spent on games may not be an effective solution because the psychosocial problems remain. Therefore, treatment and prevention might focus on activities that stimulate the development of social skills that improve social interaction and build self‐esteem in a non‐gaming environment.”

Finally, we leave you with a bit of pop-psychology in the form of a Gaming Addiction checklist. No, I didn’t write it myself (I was too busy playing games). The checklist was constructed by someone with (slightly) more medical authority than I, Dr. Stacey Soeldner, clinical psychologist and “life coach” at the Riverhill Psychological Associates in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, USA.

1 – Do you or a loved one consistently play video games to the point of exhaustion?

2 – Do you or a loved one have an inability to stop or cut down playing video games once you have started, despite wanting to?

3 – Do you or a loved one have negative consequences arise due to continuous play?

4 – Do you or a loved one deny that playing the video games are a problem despite feedback from a spouse, relative, friend or employer?

5 – Do you or a loved one continue playing the video game despite experiencing persistent or recurring, vocational, social or relationship problems that are directly caused by the playing of the video game? (For example, being tired at work, being late for work or not engaging in social activities.)

6 – Do you or a loved one have a need to play the video game more to get the same effect as when you began playing?

7 – Do you or a loved one suspend important social, recreational or occupational activities because they interfere with playing the video game? (For example, calling in sick for work or skipping your son’s soccer game.)

Soeldner states that if the reader answered yes to any of the above questions, then they have a problem. “This behaviour can be due to other disorders, such as depression. Whatever the cause, it would be beneficial for this person to seek psychological treatment,” she adds.

Are you addicted to video games? << Share your thoughts in the forums

Source: GamePolitics

Join the conversation

Are you a video game addict?