Is Video Game Addiction A Thing?

Aug 8, 2018

There’s been a lot of concern lately, by parents especially, about video game addiction.

The World Health Organization has added the behavioral condition “gaming disorder” to their International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

In 2013, the American Psychological Association (APA) designated gaming disorder as “a condition for further study.” But even that provoked pushback.

Akin to an addiction to heroin or alcohol, the proposed diagnostic criteria roughly tracked those for substance abuse, such as withdrawal, tolerance, a desire to stop, and negative impact on life activities. Internet Gaming Disorder’s inclusion in the [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by the APA] drew concern from gamers, who objected to the implication that their hobby was an intoxicant and therefore an intrinsic danger. Psychologists also worried that comparing gaming to substance abuse amounted to a mixed metaphor, because games don’t provoke physical reactions like tolerance and withdrawal the way narcotics do.

Could obsessive playing be symptomatic of some other kind of disorder? Or could it just be doing something you like to excess, similar to binging on a television show, or staying up until 3 am to finish reading a novel?

How is gaming disorder diagnosed and treated — and how will it change our understanding of a pastime that’s popular with kids?

Produced by Paige Osburn. Text by Gabrielle Healy.


Andrew Przybylski, Director of research, the Oxford Internet Institute; @ShuhBillSkee

Cecilia d’Anastasio, Senior reporter, Kotaku;@cecianasta

Dr. David Greenfield, Founder, The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction; assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine; @CITACenter

Ian Bogost, Professor of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. Author, “Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom and the Secret of Games.”; @ibogost

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