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Video game addiction, also called video game overuse, is a proposed form of psychological addiction[1] composed of a compulsive use of computer and video games. While game critics may praise a game as "addictive", this article shall focus only on the perceived negative consequences of the phenomenon.

The most notable are massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), and related to the also-debated Internet addiction disorder. Instances have been reported in which users play compulsively, isolating themselves from social contact and focusing almost entirely on in-game achievements rather than life events.[2][3]


In the United States, the question of video game addiction has occasioned much debate. The American Medical Association met in June of 2007 to discuss the topic, determining that further research was needed before video game addiction could be considered a formal diagnosis and urging the American Psychiatric Association to study whether the diagnosis would be appropriate for inclusion in the 1998 American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicated that though he did believe video games could be addictive, he did not necessarily believe the diagnosis warranted inclusion in the DSM.[4] In its official statement on June 25,2007, the APA said it "does not consider 'video game addiction' to be a mental disorder at this time," but it did not rule out the possibility that such a diagnosis could be confirmed by 2012.[5]

Possible diagnosisEdit

Though video game addiction is not included as a diagnosis in either the DSM or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, it is suggested that the symptoms of a video game addiction would be similar to that of other psychological addictions.[6] Like compulsive gambling, video game addiction is said to be an impulse control disorder.[7][8] While no diagnostic criteria have yet been established for video game addiction, the symptoms of impulse control disorder include regular or repetitive displays of at least five of the following:[9][10]

  1. Persistent thoughts of the activity or performance of the activity. (Preoccupation)
  2. Need for increased time spent on the activity to achieve satisfaction or diminished reward for the same amount of time spent on the activity. (Tolerance)
  3. Inability to control, stop or diminish the behavior. (Loss of control)
  4. Restlessness or irritability when prevented from partaking in the activity. (Withdrawal)
  5. Lying to friends or family about extent of involvement with activity. (Continuance despite adverse consequences)
  6. Committing illegal acts to sustain activity. (Continuance despite adverse consequences)
  7. Relying on others to finance activity. (Continuance despite adverse consequences)


No formal studies have been published addressing the prevalence of a possible video game addiction. A Harris Interactive poll released in April of 2007 found that 8.5% of "youth gamers" in the United States could be "classified as pathological or clinically 'addicted' to playing video games."[11] A British survey reported in November of 2006 indicated 12% of polled gamers exhibit addictive behaviors.[12] Video game overuse is believed to be more of a problem in Asia.[4] A governmental survey in South Korea estimated that 2.4% of South Koreans aged 9 to 39 are addicts, with 10.2 percent more "borderline cases."[13]

A 2005 survey by the Entertainment Software Association found that "video game overuse" was more common in players of MMORPGs.[14] In an interview in 2005, Dr. Maressa Orzack of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts estimated that 40% of the 8.5 million players of MMORPG World of Warcraft are addicted, a figure she derived from the survey managed by Nick Yee at the The Daedalus Project. [15]. However, Nick Yee has pointed out that caution should be exercised when interpreting this survey data[16].

A 2008 Study by Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that video game addiction in men may be more prevalent than women when the game concept revolves around territorial control. [17]

Possible causesEdit

Theorists focus on the built-in reward systems of the games to explain their addictive nature.[18][19]


Some countries, like South Korea, have responded to the perceived threat of video game addiction by opening treatment centers.[13] The Chinese government operates several clinics to treat those addicted to online games, chatting and web surfing. Treatment for the patients, most of whom have been forced to attend by parents or government officials, include various forms of pain, or uneasiness.[20][21]

China also introduced an anti-online gaming addiction system in 2005 intended to reduce addiction by diminishing in-game rewards after three hours of play.[22] In 2006, the system was altered so that users over 18 did not face the limitations.[23] Reports indicate underage gamers are finding ways to circumvent the measure.[24]

In June of 2006, the Smith and Jones clinic in Amsterdam became the first treatment facility in Europe to offer a residential treatment program for compulsive gamers.[25] McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts has set up Computer Addiction Services. Elsewhere, gamers may seek services at generalized addiction support centers. At one such center in Richmond, Canada, excessive gaming accounts for 80% of one youth counselor's caseload.[26]

On-Line Gamers Anonymous a registered non-profit organization, formed in 2002, is a 12-step, self-help, support and recovery organization for gamers and their loved ones who are suffering from the adverse effects of excessive computer game-playing. On-Line Gamers Anonymous also provides a variety of message boards, several on-line meetings and other tools for healing and support.


There have been three well-documented deaths caused directly by exhaustion from playing games for long periods. In South Korea, Lee Seung Seop died after playing Starcraft for over 50 hours. [27] [28] In Jinzhou, China, Xu Yan died after playing online games for over 15 days during the Lunar New Year holiday [29] and an unnamed 30 year-old died in Guangzhou, China after playing for 3 days straight. [30][31]

See alsoEdit


  1. AMA may identify excessive video game play as addiction
  2. Computer Game Addiction. Berkeley Parents Network. Accessed
  3. Hauge, Marney R. and Douglas A. Gentile. Video game addiction among adolescents: Associations with academic performance and aggression. Paper presented at a Society for Research in Child Development Conference, Tampa Florida. April, 2003. Accessed
  4. 4.0 4.1 Noyes, Katherine. Docs Retreat From 'Video Game Addiction' Diagnosis Tech News World June 25,2007. Accessed June 27,2007.
  5. American Psychiatric Association Considers 'Video Game Addiction' Science Daily June 26,2007. Accessed June 27,2007
  6. Khan, Mohamed K. Report of the council on science and public health. 2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  7. Brown, Gerald L. Impulse control disorders: a clinical and psycho biological perspective March 15, 2004 Accessed June 25,2007
  8. Study finds computer addiction is linked to impulse control disorder The Australian News October 24,2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  9. Irons, Richard and Jennifer P. Schneider. Differential Diagnosis of Addictive Sexual Disorders Using the DSM-IV Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 5153, Volume 3, pp 7-21, 1996. Accessed June 25,2007
  10. Defining Internet Addiction 1996. Accessed June 25,2007
  11. Video game addiction: is it real? Harris Interactive April 2,2007. Accessed June 25,2007
  12. Online gamers addicted says study. BBC News November 28,2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  13. 13.0 13.1 Faiola, Anthony. When Escape Seems Just a Mouse-Click Away. Washington Post Foreign Service May 27, 2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  14. Video Game Overuse May Be an Addiction: Experts. Forbes June 22,2007. Accessed June 25,2007
  15. Ferguson, Dylan. World of Warcrack: the addictive power of role-playing games The Manitoban Online March 28,2007. Accessed June 25,2007
  16. Yee, Nick. The Daedalus Project: Addiction The Daedalus Project July 9,2004
  17. Video Game Addiction Study by Stanford University School of Medicine
  18. Haggard, Daniel. The computer game affliction: how they addict you. Accessed June 25,2007
  19. LeClaire, Jennifer. Warning Signs Appear Along Road to Video Game Addiction TechNews World. September 13,2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  20. Humphrey Cheung.China electrocutes the WoW out of Internet addicts February 23,2007. Accessed June 25,2007
  21. Sebag-Montefiore, Poppy. China's young escape into the web Observer Guardian November 20,2005. Accessed June 25,2007
  22. Dickie, Mure. China moves to zap online game addiction Financial Times August 23,2005. Accessed June 27,2007
  23. Shang Koo. GAPP Exempts Adults From Fatigue System Pacific Epoch Jan 16,2006. Accessed June 27,2007
  24. Zhengqian Zhou. Industry Unfazed, Gamers Unconvinced About Fatigue System Pacific Epoch April 10,2007. Accessed June 27,2007
  25. Li C. Kuo. Europe Opens Its First Game Addiction Clinic. Gamespy June 1, 2006. Accessed June 25, 2007
  26. Bennett, Nelson. When the game gets serious. Richmond News December 8, 2006. Accessed June 25,2007
  27. Korean drops dead after 50-hour gaming marathon (London Times) August 10, 2005
  28. S Korean dies after games session 10 August 2005
  29. Chinese gamer dies after 15-day session. VNU.Net.
  30. Chinese gamer dies after three-day session. VNU.Net.
  31. Chinese Man Dies From 3-Day Gaming Binge. Associated Press.

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