We all love video games. And some of us spent a ton of our time each week enjoying our favorite virtual levels and adventures.
However, some players worry that they enjoy gaming a little too much. When does a hobby become an obsession? And when does an obsession become an addiction?
If you’ve ever wondered about video game addiction, we’ve got a full breakdown of everything you need to know.
Is Video Game Addiction Real?
Let’s cut right to the chase: is video game addiction a real thing? According to the World Health Organization, the answer is “yes.”
The organization now acknowledges that “gaming disorder” is a real concern. And the American Psychiatric Association had already added “internet gaming disorder” as something to monitor and research in more detail. That was included in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, in 2013.
Now, this hasn’t kept gamers from arguing over the findings (more on this below). But gaming addiction is now something that is on the radar of health professionals all over the world.
What’s the Fine Print?
Obviously, adding any kind of “new” addiction to our medical lexicon is controversial. It almost always causes gamers to ask what the fine print of this decision really looks like.
According to WHO, gaming addiction happens when a gamer has “impaired control” over game time. This means they may be gaming more than they wanted to or meant to. Additionally, “gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities.” Finally, the gamer in question continues to game even after experiencing negative consequences.
Some of this sounds straightforward enough: the first sign of any hobby being a major problem is that it is disrupting your life. Nonetheless, many people continue to misunderstand the nature of modern addiction.
Addiction: It’s Not What You Think
Most of us think of addiction in chemical terms. Take an addiction to alcohol or nicotine, for example. An addict develops a physical dependence on the chemicals involved to the point that their body needs a regular “fix.”
However, things aren’t always that simple. Someone may have physical dependence on something without being an addict. And someone may be an addict of something even when no physical dependence is present.
Think of an addiction to gaming as an addiction to gambling. There is no physiological component or chemical addiction at play. However, someone may form a behavioral addiction that they have trouble breaking out of without professional help.
How Common Is It?
By now, some of you may be sweating. Does playing a ton of video games mean that you are an addict?
In all likelihood, the answer is “no.” According to recent research, no more than 3% of the population is likely to be a video game addict. And the actual number may be closer to 1%.
Everything is a matter of perspective, though. When you’re talking about percentages of a global population, 1% still means that 7.7 million people are suffering from video game addiction.
If you’re genuinely worried you could be one of them, look back at the WHO definition and see if this describes you. Are you gaming more than you mean to? Are you constantly losing sleep or facing social consequences thanks to video games?
Without these issues, you are most likely only someone who loves to play video games. Just like the rest of us!
Listening to the Support System
Of course, addicts aren’t always great at self-assessment. This is why most alcoholics will constantly insist that they don’t really have a problem. And that’s why interventions are necessary: to help an addict realize that their addictive behavior is affecting the ones they care about.
With any luck, you won’t need any kind of intervention. You just need to pay attention to the support system around you.
Are your parents, friends, or significant other complaining about your gaming? This may be a sign you are playing too much, even if it doesn’t feel that way from your perspective.
Why Is This So Controversial?
To many gamers, the notion of a gaming disorder is downright offensive. What makes a simple medical definition so controversial?
First, many gamers think this could be used as another way to demonize gaming. Violent video games still serve as a scapegoat for things like mass shootings. Now, they might be blamed on people developing a variety of dangerous addictions.
Second, it’s hard to diagnose. This means that there will be plenty of people misdiagnosed, making the diagnosis less useful than it could otherwise be.
Finally, the very idea of “gamer” is a shaky definition. Is someone who plays Angry Birds on the bus a gamer in the same way that someone who spends 40 hours a week playing an MMORPG?
Despite these factors, it’s important for those of us in the gaming community to recognize addictive behavior and reach out to help those in need when we can.
Other Factors to Consider
When it comes to addiction, here’s a frustrating fact: it’s likelier to affect some people more than others.
Science has not yet isolated whether a tendency to addiction is rooted in genetics, willpower, or some other factor. Whatever the cause, some people are more likely to become addicted to anything than their peers, and this includes gaming.
If you know for a fact that you have an addictive personality, it may be worth taking a second look at your gaming habit to be on the safe side.
Statistically, the vast majority of gamers will never become gaming addicts. But learning more about this phenomenon can help us all do a bit of helpful self-reflection.
For example, even without addiction, cutting back on gaming may open some new opportunities in your life. Wanting to find a girlfriend or boyfriend? Doing a little less weekend raiding on WoW gives you time to go on dates. Wanting to bond with your kids more? Putting down the controller and heading to the park can create some unforgettable memories.
Don’t think of this as fighting addiction. Think of it as spending each day trying to become a better version of yourself.