Excessive and compulsive video gaming is a current psychological problem that has become increasingly popular over the last several years. Unlike, other addictions such as drugs, alcohol, and sex gaming addicts aren’t hooked on prescription medication, illicit substances, or sex, rather they are addicted to and dependent on video games and alternate universes.

In an effort to understand gaming addiction you must understand the nature of addiction. Addiction is defined as a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite negative consequences. Addiction may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, nicotine, and others, or behaviors such as gambling or gaming; there is scientific evidence that the addictive substances and behaviors share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Excessive gaming as with any other addiction can take over the lives of the players making it difficult to obtain from repeated playing in spite of negative consequences. Consequences can include failure to meet deadlines (homework/work assignments), decreased socialization, self-isolation, challenges with communication, social awkwardness, challenges with relating to the here and now, irritability whenever the gaming cannot be done, etc. Like many other addictions gaming can take control of the user’s life rendering him/her unable to refrain from impulsive behaviors.

Criteria for gaming addiction include:

  • Inability to control his/her usage
  • Increased use to maintain him/herself in order to feel normal
  • Irritability/angry mood if the usage is decreased or unable to be done
  • Self-isolation
  • Concealing gaming usage from others
  • Interference with sleeping/eating habits due to excessive gaming
  • Feeling inadequate or less than unless he or she is unable to play
  • Feeling like he or she does not “measure up” unless they are acting out an alternate self (escapism)
  • Thoughts of gaming during other activities or work

Creating an alternate world or living in a fantasy world can be very appealing as it allows us to live out our fantasies without divulging our identity to others. However, it is very common for individuals that experiences challenges with communicating with others to create his/her own fantasy world. The attractiveness with creating one’s own fantasy world include having full control over the way he/she looks, how the character behaviors, how others see them, being rich, popular, or powerful. One of the most harmful effects of gaming limits or prevents the gamer from learning how to cope with real world challenges. By resolving problems, we build resiliency and coping skills to manage future problems, hence, gaming does not afford the gamer with the opportunity to resolve problems in a realistic real-world way.

Gaming and Cognition

Excessive gaming can impact the intellectual growth of the user, creating barriers with the processing of information, language, and emotional intelligence. Many of theses challenges are due in part to the user being unable to directly engage and learn from others via verbal language, body language, and sports. Unfortunately, gaming is not just a problem for the very young but older adults as well. Gaming can create a problem for older adults much in the same way it can for children. However, the costs of gaming addiction can be much higher for adults, e.g., staying up late to play, inattentiveness as work, late or insufficient work production, missed assignments, loss of employment, etc.

Tips to Manage Gaming in children Include:

  • Monitor when your child games
  • Monitor how long they game
  • Monitor how gaming impacts your child’s school work, friendships, etc.,
  • Monitor how your child reacts to limits placed on gaming
  • Monitor how your child sees him/herself during gaming
  • Monitor how your child relates to the world around him or herself
  • Plan more outdoor activities/family time

Parents are encouraged to show kids the value of living in the here and now rather than the fantasy world they have created. Remind your child he or she has the power to control or have an impact on their current surroundings, they can and should be present in the real world rather than the fantasy world. With fantasy living, fantasy results are produced, real world living provides real world results with the ability to build or current strengths and learn from mistakes.