Video Games Addiction: Real or Overhyped?
Sun, April 18, 2021

Video Games Addiction: Real or Overhyped?

A child who spends more than 80 hours per week gaming already be considered to have a video game addiction. / Photo by: olegdudko via 123rf


BBC, a public service broadcaster, reported on their website that China recently made a move to curb the rising problem regarding video game addiction among its young people. According to the news organization, gamers who are under 18 years old will be banned from playing online between 10 P.M. and 8 A.M. Additionally, children must be restricted to 90 minutes of gaming on weekdays and three hours on weekends and holidays. 

China is the second-largest gaming market in the world. The country has also been repeatedly criticized by global watchdogs for allowing video games to negatively affect their young people. As a result, in 2018, the government announced the establishment of a gaming regulator. This is also in response to health concerns that have affected young gamers such as nearsightedness. The regulation limits the number of new online games as well as the time young people spend in front of their computer screens. 

This kind of development in a video-game crazy nation such as China raises the question about how real video games addiction is. There are some recent studies that suggested that a person can really be addicted to playing video games, similar to how people can be addicted to drugs or liquor. Although playing video games might be a good way to spend their time with their friends, spending too much time on the activity can hurt their health and socialization skills. 

Excessive Gaming

While the definition of excessive gaming might be different depending on the age of children and their personality, Panda Security, a Spanish multinational specialized in the development of IT security solutions, mentioned on their website that a child who spends more than 80 hours per week gaming already be considered to have a video game addiction. 

Some countries have identified excessive gaming as a major public health issue. In fact, there are now certain private addiction clinics that are focused on treating the condition. According to the New York Times, an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership, the World Health Organization has added gaming disorder in its latest version of the International Classification of Diseases. It defined the disorder as “excessive and irrepressible preoccupation with video games resulting in significant personal, social, academic, or occupational impairment for at least 12 months.” This condition is labeled in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Despite video game addiction being classified under the WHO manual, there are still arguments against its validity. Critics generally argue on three main points: “Excessive gameplay is not true addiction but rather a symptom of a larger underlying problem, like depression or anxiety; the notion of video game addiction emerges more from moral panic about new technologies than from scientific research and clinical data; and making video game addiction an official disorder risks pathologizing a benign hobby and proliferating sham treatments.”

Behavioral Addiction

These assertions, however, are becoming more difficult to accept when it is juxtaposed with the latest studies on behavioral addiction. It is said that there is a body of evidence that demonstrates that video game addiction is a real phenomenon even though it is not an epidemic. This condition affects a small yet alarming percentage of gamers worldwide. 

This evidence has emerged from many sources. Some studies indicate compulsive gameplay, like addictive drugs, can alter the brain’s reward circuit. Psychiatrists visited by young adults whose lives have been profoundly disrupted by an all-consuming time with gaming found out that there are significant parallels between video games and online gambling. Add to this the gaming industry’s embrace of addictive game design. 

“It’s quite possible and common to have both addiction and another mental or behavioral disorder simultaneously,” Timothy Fong, a professor of addiction psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said as he explained how video game addiction is a real thing. He added that compulsive gamers also have come with clinical histories and mindsets that are similar to patients who are diagnosed with heroin addiction, alcoholism, or gambling disorder. 


Excessive gaming can disrupt the gamer's relationship with their family and other areas of their life. / Photo by: Antonio Guillem via 123rf


How Video Games Affect Health

As with other people with known addictions, gaming addicts become obsessively preoccupied with game-playing, and it can disrupt their relationship with their family and other areas of their life. Verywell Mind, a website that provides information about psychology, mentioned in an article that younger children who have begun playing video games are more likely to develop dependence-like behaviors.

Thus, it is important to know how to recognize the symptoms of video game addiction. PsychGuides, a leading provider of both residential and outpatient addiction treatment services, reported on their website that video game addiction might affect the emotional health of a person. One might show feelings of restlessness and/or irritability when they are unable to play, lying to friends or family members regarding the amount of time they spend playing. 

Researchers also confirmed that video games can affect a child’s brain. It might improve their multitasking skills but it can also have a long-lasting adverse effect that can alter their life significantly. It includes malnutrition and poor academic performance in school. Other studies also showed that these people might develop issues in their mental health and cognitive functioning.