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Video Game Addiction: Potential Identifiers and their Psychosocial Relationships

With increase in technology a hot topic is addition, more specific the video game kind. In this blog it will look at several articles that have researched video game addictions, along with proposing potential directions for the future of the disorder.

Jenny Kline, Blogger

February 8, 2021

18 Min Read

Background of Video Game Addiction

As the world has become more reliant on technology, so has the increase in those that use video games. With the increase in gamers video game addiction is a disorder that has emerged, which has drawn many researchers that wish to better understand the topic. Video games no longer just service the younger generation as some gamers can be in their early thirties and still average about eight hours a week (Mathews et al., 2018). Many trying to figure out what are the predictors for video game addiction and who is most likely to fall under the spell of video game addiction. Others trying to figure out if there is a way to reduce the chance of video game addiction happening or a potential way to cure those that do have it severely. For the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this topic fits best with the advocacy track because video game addiction fits with finding quality of life and hoping to fix this in a positive way for the community.

There are multiple forms of entertainment and video games are now one of the dominate forms, with over one billion individuals playing video games worldwide (Gorman et al., 2018). When gaming was first started there was not the large online player base that there is in current times. Even with this in mind in the 1980s there was “Pac-man’s Elbow”, which essentially was players suffering from joint problems from hitting the buttons and moving the joysticks for hours at a time (Weinstein, 2010). This means that video game addiction does not likely just come from online multiplayer games, it could also come from single player games. By having this large online part of gaming for some individuals it could act as a way to have all their social interactions in one place (van Rooij et al., 2011). In other cases, there is a chance that video games could be a way to of coping or escaping from reality (Loton et al., 2016). With the World Health Organization (WHO) adding gaming disorder as a mental health condition, this has sparked research and talks into ways to treat the new disorder (Gorman et al., 2018). By having the possibilities of these happening to gamers this make it a topic to continue to investigate, since the gaming industry seems to be growing each day.

Potential Demographic Determinates of Video Game Addiction

With the rise in cases of video game addiction, so has there been a rise in the number of research articles wishing to better understand the topic. A large portion of reports have been about if there are different groups that fall under video game addiction and if there is a different between normal gamers and video game addicts. In study by Wittek et al. (2016), they tried to determine if video game addiction was based on demographics such as age, place of birth, and gender. When compared to the ages of 16-30 years it was showed that ages 31-50 fell into the categories of normal and engaged gamer and ages 51-80 was significantly in the normal gamer or nongame category. With place of birth it is likely those from Africa, Asia, or Americas were significantly related to those in the addicted or problem gamer categories. For gender it was found that males were likely to be addicted or problem gamers compared to females. Another potential explanation for why boys tend to be more likely to be addicted to video games is because they tend to higher motivational states. What this means is that reward prediction, learning reward values, and cognitive state make it more likely for males to become hooked into the game (Weinstein, 2010). Another potential explanation for gender it is likely from the fact that in most studies males tend to play video games more than females. From these results when it comes to age it is likely because video games are still a fairly new invention so it affects those that are on the younger side. Another study by van Rooij et al. (2011), found that there are different groups when it comes to identifying those that are gamers. In this there are addicted heavy online gamers, but there is also a group of heavy online gamers that are non-addicted. The difference between the two is slight in terms of psychosocial health, but in terms of persistence over time the addicts tended to keep the heavy gaming going for over a year compared to the non-addicted.

Potential Psychosocial Determinates of Video Game Addiction

A different way of researching video game addiction has been if it could be caused by other psychosocial health disorders or as a coping mechanism. In the case by Jeong et al. (2017), they tested to see if having loneliness and/or depression had a relationship to video game addiction. In the results it was found that there is a positive association was between loneliness and video game addiction, this is possible by the fact that those that are excluded or feel lonely may find themselves picking up a game to compensate for lack of social skills. The other finding was that depression did not show any effect on video game addiction, the unexpected results may be that depression has various factors for being caused and this led to varying answers on the survey (Jeong et al., 2017). Another study by Loton et al. (2015), conducted a study to see if having a coping mechanism of withdrawal could cause someone to rely on video games to the point of causing an addiction. From their finding they found that there is a partial relationship between coping and video game addictions, but there is not a full relationship. What this means is that there is a chance that someone could be addicted to video games as a way to cope and avoid others or escape from reality. Their study also tried to see if video game engagement could be linked to anxiety or addiction in general and found that both of these were not directly connected relationship wise (Loton et al., 2015).

Another potential way to determine if someone is likely to become addicted to video games could come be if that individual has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a common neurodevelopment disorder that can cause problems with self-regulations, self-control, and behavioral inhibition. In the article by Naskar et al. (2016), those that are problematic gamers tend to likely have ADHD, along with an association with mood disorders and substance abuse. Why ADHD is more considered over other disorders is that it is difficult to manage time and behaviors, which could lead to difficulty managing video game playing behaviors. In the study by Mathews et al., (2018), they recruited participants off the internet (mainly Reddit.com) and had them feel out a survey that was about demographics, video game addiction, ADHD, and video game genres. The title of the survey was “Video game addiction, ADHD symptomatology, and video game reinforcement”, which could cause a limitation on the survey. From this it was found that there was a positive association between ADHD severity and video game addiction severity, so the worse one was the likeliness the other would be worse. With this being said those that have severe ADHD symptoms are more likely at risk for developing problematic playing habits (Mathews et al., 2018). If this study could be replicated more times to see consistency it would strengthen the validity of the overall study.

Environment in which an individual has been influenced by has the potential to affect if they could get addicted to video games. In the study by Migala-Warchol (2019), they tried to see if there was a relation between video game addiction and school attachment, along with if parents being together or divorced could have an effect. This was to see if these kinds of factors could cause adolescence to grow into adults that could see video games as a way to cope. The study group was 211 students, 102 from divorced families and 109 from non-divorced families with the mean of age of participants being 15 years old (Migala-Warchol, 2019). From the results it was found that these was not association between video game addiction and if the parents were divorced or not. For school attachment it was found that there was only a slight association between the two. With the number of environmental differences in the backgrounds of the students it is difficult to pin point of situational reason for why video game addiction occurs.

Common Industry Views of Video Game Addiction

When it comes to industry sources addressing the topic of video game addiction it tends to take multiple view some being bad and some being good. Parents tend to not help in this either because they do not enjoy their children spending a lot of time playing video games. This can cause video game addiction to be misunderstood and/or the video game industry to be blamed Because of this kind of addressing of the video game industry it makes it so that the gaming industry has to go on the defensive, which can take away some of the ability to have a constructive conversation about the topic (Hodent, 2019). With this being said in the industry it would be better if more game designers did understand what kind of psychological affect that some of their mechanics may have on players and especially on younger players. In the case of Gin (2020), they try to give a list of possible signs that someone has started to become a video addict. Such as trading essential activities like sleep for gaming and gambling money on in-app purchases. Some of the symptoms could be for someone that is a heavy gamer, but not addicted. The article by Hamilton (2020), goes a different route to saying that video games today are made to be addictive, but to try to find a balance between work and play. Video games can be designed to be addictive, but this may be the over use of the word addictive meaning engaging (Hodent, 2019). Video games need to be engaging or they are boring, which would then make them not fun and then people would not play them. They go further to point out that video games have serious benefits such as improving memory and that they should not be completely cut out of someone’s life if they think they are suffering from video game addiction. The last point made is that there are ways to seek help for those believing they have video game addiction by looking to consult a doctor or looking into behavioral therapy. Both industry sources try to offer solutions for those that are looking for help managing their video game addiction or heavy gaming. For going forward in the industry, it would be beneficial for the future of the video game addiction for game designers to have a better understanding of the disorder (Hodent, 2019).

Potential Directions 

Now understanding ways to identify those that may have video game addictions, their relationship to psychosocial disorders, and the gaming industry perspectives; this leads to the directions for the future of video game addiction. By identifying that there is a small sub-group that is addicted to video games it can help in future efforts to develop questionnaires and look for certain symptoms (van Rooij et al., 2011). By developing a questionnaire that could identify the group of addicted gamers this could be tested against scales for validity to make it easy to find those that do have the disorder. Similar to the treatment direction, there was proposed that there should be centers for game addicts that need to pay attention to the psychosocial factors to help alleviate the addiction (Jeong et al., 2017). In this support group setting they could have help from others that are also suffering, along with having medical professionals that could help with monitoring their treatment efforts. By having these directions tested they can help to lessen the negative effects for those that are suffering from video game addiction and combat future cases. Symptoms of ADHD could help with proving if 2D:4D chemicals could be a predictor for video game addiction, but there needs to be more research in this topic to see if there is a relationship there (Kornhuber et al., 2013).

One direction for video game addiction is to look into treatment options that could help with lessening the negative side effects. Since video game addiction is similar to substance abuse then cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), would be a good starting solution, since it helps with substance abuse addicts (Gorman et al., 2018). This direction would benefit from additional studies that test to see if the CBT actually helps with reducing video game addictions. In the article by Naskar et al. (2016), some of the potential ways to help lessen the negative affects of video game addiction is online support forms, a self-discovery camp, and in some cases virtual reality treatment. For the support forms it tends to follow a 12-step program as seen in Gamblers Anonymous. Using the virtual reality option allows for some of the same benefits from the CBT treatment, with eight sessions to help with the addiction. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), was another treatment option that was tested to see if it helped with lessening video game addiction (Li et al., 2017). As with the virtual reality it was eight sessions that were used and did test it on a couple of willing participants. What was found was that it tended to raise the participants awareness to the amount of games they were playing and how much time it was taking away from other aspects of their lives. As with many of these options with combating video game addiction there still need to be further research to see if any of these actually work or can help everyone, not just a few (Li et al., 2017). The likeliness that these will be used by clinical practitioners is very slim, but some of the options such as online forums could be sought out as a way to help with coping with the disorder.

Another potential point of research for video game addiction is if the genre of game could increase the likeliness. In the article by Naskar et al. (2016), they tried to nail it down saying it is more likely from games like World of Warcraft. There is currently no known evidence that this is correct so it requires future research to see if the game genre does make a difference.

Limitations to this Blog Post

In this blog there are limitations that are currently present. More specifically it is with the people external validity, which is when an overgeneralization of people could be drawn from the conclusion. In the articles that are drawn from in this blog suffers from overgeneralizing people into a category that might not include everyone. The countries that the participants came from were Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and Australia. The fact that roughly 150 million of those that are video gamers come from the United States, which means there is a large portion that is missing from these studies (Gorman et al., 2018).  In a future study to help with this they should study those from different countries to help strengthen the findings or conduct a United States study. The second limitation would fall under the construct validity of mono-method bias. Construct validity is when the study can claim what it is testing is true and proved by its results. Mono-method bias is when a study may only measure a part of a subject or not the full extent. In majority of the tests the type of video game was not determined, which the determining on the type of video game used could affect the results (Gorman et al., 2018). Different types of games can have an effect on its players, thus those that play a certain genre of games could affect their likeness to be addicted (Wittek et al., 2015). In future studies it should be looked into if the type of games someone plays affects if they can be addicted or if certain games could cause video game addiction to occur. In the study by Migala-Warchol (2019), they have an internal validity threat of maturation threat, which is when the subject’s outcome could have happened because of natural processes of life happen. In their study they did it over a year because to see if there was much change. which could fall under this threat. In the study by Mathews et al., (2018), they have the limitation of hypothesis guessing, which falls under construct validity. Hypothesis guessing is when a participant might try to guess the conclusion of your study based on their own guessing. This could happen in the surveying process because the name of the survey given to participants was “Video game addiction, ADHD symptomatology, and video game reinforcement”, with this kind of title and being taken on the internet this could test the validity of the study. In the study by Li et al., (2017) for testing only one of their participants had already been going to outside help to aid with video game addiction. This is an example of selection-history threat, which occurs there is an outside influence that only one of the two groups experience that could have an effect on the study’s conclusions.

All those possible directions for helping video game addicts would need to have further research to see if they do actually help those suffering from the disorder. For future research CBT needs to be further investigated and tested to see if it helps with video game addiction, the same can be said for the support group setting. As stated, before for the questionnaires trying to determine who is a video game addict, they need to be tested multiple times against validity scales to make sure they are valid (van Rooij et al., 2011).

Final Summary

When it comes to video game addiction there are some indicators that could tell if someone could get addicted. These indicators are ages 16-30 years, generally male, and are likely to come from Africa, Asia, or Americas. There is a connect to video game addiction and loneliness, whereas there is only a slight connect to video game addiction and coping mechanism. There is a chance that someone with ADHD could be at a higher risk for getting addicted to video games. The number of potential influences that could cause video game addiction proves it still has a long way to in research. With going forward some of the possible options for video game addiction is to develop questionnaires, set up treatment methods, and/or have support groups available. For the future of video games addictions, the disorder is going to continue to increase and there needs to be those that can speak about it to improve quality of life and this is why it falls under the GDC track of advocacy. For those seeking to become future game designers understanding disorders such as video game addiction is important to try to build games in a way that does not encourage this behavior.




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