Are video games addictive? Douglas Gentile, a psychologist at Iowa State University, has been studying video game addiction for almost two decades and has absolutely no doubt that they can be.
He told CNN, “The first study I began in 1999, to basically try to show video game addiction isn’t a real thing, and it turns out I was wrong!”
His research has shown that approximately 8.5% percent of children who play video games in the United States are addicts. About 1 in 10 children suffer from video game addiction globally.
“Even though different researchers across the world may define the problem somewhat differently, or ask different questions in different countries with differently aged kids, we find almost the same results across the world” Gentile says.”The estimates perhaps vary somewhat, but they all seem to come out somewhere between about 4 and 10 percent: that’s the amount of gamers I would classify as addicted.”
What causes video game addiction?
Gentile believes technology’s increased accessibility and the easy access to broadband internet as a key reason for video game addiction nowadays. As he rightly points out, “It’s really hard to get addicted to drugs if you can’t get them. This is why we’re seeing Internet Gaming Disorder becoming a bigger problem because now, not only has almost everyone got a computer, and almost everyone has a video game system in their home … but now you’ve got a cell phone and you’ve got games on it and you can access games pretty much everywhere.”
Gentile continues to say that video games can be so compelling because they satisfy the ABCs of human needs. “The A Is Autonomy, we like to feel we’re in control. B is Belonging, we like to feel connected to other people. And the C is Competence, we like to feel that we’re good at what we do,” he says. Of course, “B” for belonging is largely dependent on games being played with an online community.
Chartered psychologist and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University Mark Griffiths believes that video game addiction boils down to being constantly rewarded while playing a video game. Whether it is the thrill of crushing your previous high score or the the psychological reward of knowing that you have outwitted your opponents with superior strategy and motor skills, knowing that the feeling of being rewarded is just at one’s finger tips can make people dependent on games.
“Most of these rewards are — at least to some extent — unpredictable,” he says. “Not knowing when the next reward will come keeps some players in the game. In short, they carry on gaming even though they may not have received an immediate reward. They simply hope that another reward is “just around the corner” and keep on playing.”
He also points out that in the last decade we have seen a shift from standalone console gaming to massive multiplayer online games that have no end, and can’t be paused.”Many excessive gamers report that they hate logging off and leaving such games,” he says. “They don’t like it as they don’t know what is going on in the game when they are not online.”
How do you spot video game addiction?
There is not yet a universally accepted definition of video game addiction. Gentile highlights the key characteristic that a person’s obsession with video games must be harming their life in some capacity before their predilection can be labelled video game addiction. “What we started finding in the early research is it did look like some kids were doing worse in school, harming their friendships, harming their family relationships. They couldn’t stop thinking about gaming, it was the only thing they wanted to do.”
Using video games to escape from problems, feelings, obstacles and things of that nature could also be indicative of video game addiction.