Are Video Games Addictive?

In 2005, Shanghai gamer Qiu Chengwei stabbed a friend to death when he found out that he had sold a virtual sword belonging to Chengwei on eBay for 7,200 yuan ($738).   After narrowly avoiding a death sentence, Chengwei was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2009, an Ohio court sentenced 17 year-old Daniel Petric to 23 years in prison for the fatal shooting of his mother.  Petric had shot both his parents after they took away his copy of Halo 3.    During his trial, the court was told that Petric had become addicted to the game after being left housebound following a jetski injury. 

In 2011, Rebecca Colleen Christie was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a New Mexico court for allowing her 3 ½ year-old daughter to die  of malnutrition while she spent hours playing World of Warcraft.  

Is it possible to become addicted to video games?

While addiction remains a prime concern in most societies, whether drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, etc., becoming addicted to video games seems more controversial despite high-profile cases like the ones listed above.    Media stories about extreme cases of video game addiction, especially online games, goes back to at least 1993 when Wired ran a story on MUDs (multi-user dungeons) and the players who become addicted to them. 

In the newly-released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Internet Gaming Disorder has been included among the conditions being considered for future study and possible addition to later DSM editions.    At this time, however, video game addiction (GA) is not considered to be a mental disorder.  Still, research suggests that 0.5 percent of all gamers and 1.7 percent of ninth graders experience symptoms associated with excessive video game use.    Along with Online Gamers Anonymous in the United States, clinics for video game addicts have been established in countries around the world including China, the Netherlands, and Australia.   Even conventional addiction treatment clinics have been noting a rise in referrals for gaming addiction.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.

           

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