Podcast 30: Gaming Addiction

Is it possible to get addicted to video games? Have YOU ever been addicted to a video game or gaming in general? I’m frequently asked about this topic when people learn that I write and talk about psychology and video games or when I’m invited to give a talk or appear on a podcast. People –parents especially– are worried that their loved ones and/or children are addicted to video games and they wonder if they should do anything about it.

And they’re not the only ones. In 2013 the American Psychiatric Associated included Internet Gaming Disorder in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5). This is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental disorders. Now, it is critical to note that the DSM-5 doesn’t include Internet Gaming Disorder as an actual disorder. Rather, it proposes it as a “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion in the main book as a formal disorder.” They even present specific symptoms that might be used to diagnose someone.

This episode’s guest, Dr. Andrew Przybylski.

But, as they say, more research is required. In this episode of the podcast I talk to an expert on this kind of research. We discuss the concept of gaming addiction, the difficulties inherent in studying it, the flaws of our research to date, and some ways to address those flaws through open science standards.


Audio Credits:

  • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
  • “Sneaky Snitch,” “Over Under,” and “Netherworld” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

9 thoughts on “Podcast 30: Gaming Addiction

  1. Interesting podcast, it is enlightening to hear about how preliminary and flawed current studies have been.

    One thing that I found questionable however: your interviewee’s assertion that gaming addiction’s prevalence being greater than heroin’s is a “wake up call” to the fact that it might not be realistic isn’t taking into account the extreme difference in accessibility. For someone to be addicted to something, they need access to it. The average American isn’t going to even know where to begin searching to find heroin so that they can even begin to become addicted to it. Heroin is also illegal and highly stigmatized, while games are freely available, widely advertised, and at the least don’t hold the kind of stigma that they may once have held. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that (if indeed gaming addiction is a “real thing”) the prevalence of gaming addiction would end up being higher than that of heroin as a result. It might be better to compare numbers with something that is similarly accessible and similarly legal, such as alcohol (though alcohol I would argue is still less accessible, in that it’s a physically exhaustible resource. I’d be more interested to hear a comparison of those numbers.

    Either way though, it’s given me a lot to think about, and has left me wishing that there was better scientific rigor being applied to the investigation of this subject.

  2. i remember hearing about junkies robbing people and burglarizing a lot in the 70s to get their “fix” but never heard that about “gamers” lol seriously get real fake doctors with no real talent. why dont they do real work instead of blame games for peoples problems really. \

    • There are a lot of people who are falsely blaming video games for societal problems, and I agree with that point and the frustration you are feeling about it. For instance, there is no evidence that video games instil sadism or a desire to commit violence – but note that it is psychologists who have proven that, by doing research! Consider how research in this area can get to the truth – and how that has often helped the cause of games. We need that truth, we need research to be done. Otherwise, what are our motives?

      Conflating substance and behavioral addiction, as well as making false statements about the symptoms of both, is not helping us to reach the truth. It may be that video game addiction is not real, and if that is the case it is research that will prove that, not false correlations and assumed conclusions based on what we wish were true.

      In this case, there IS legitimate concern and troubling evidence that video game addiction is real, and we need people researching it to get at the heart of whether it is real and how we can educate, mitigate, and prevent it if it is. That requires research, and not sticking our head in the sand and pretending that if we don’t research it it doesn’t exist.

      We need this research to be done – we need to stop assuming that science is an attack.

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