What does research tell us about internet gaming addiction? Since the American Psychological Association (APA) gave a term to this addiction—internet gaming disorder—with an actual list of symptoms, researchers have been trying to expand on how internet gaming affects children, teens, and adults. Research has examined everything from the prevalence of addictive symptoms in players of internet games to the accuracy of diagnosis and efficacy of treatment for this form of addiction.
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The Quick Rise of Online Gaming
With the rapid rise of the internet came the equally rapid popularization of online games. From early flash games to console and mobile games, internet gaming has become something of a phenomenon. Given the nearly obsessive way many people use these games, there is little question that they can be addicting.
But what about these online games make them so immersive in the beginning and difficult to stop playing in the long run? One theory is the inherent rewards that players receive from playing these games. For this reason, massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are some of the most popular online games. These games offer players a wider variety of incentives compared to other game genres. As a result, nearly half of online gamers play MMORPGs—with up to 1.65 million gamers playing the popular “World of Warcraft” daily.
According to one study, players flock to these games for three primary reasons:
- Achievements in advancing the game – In-game rewards and admiration from other gamers regarding progress and status keep players hooked.
- Online socializing – Chatting with friends, meeting new people, and working as a team provide virtual bonds.
- Immersion in discovery – Massive maps and let players sink hours into exploration and discovery.
The Key Makeup of Video Game Addiction
While the main theory regarding the addictive nature of online video games is about the inherent rewards that they give to players, the various reasons for video game addiction can be broken down into more specific factors that lead people to play Internet games in the first place, and then to continue playing them:
- Many addictive video games do not have an end, making extensive play more likely.
- In-game rewards and leveling systems create a sense of accomplishment.
- Internet games often encourage collaboration and socialization more than any other form of video game.
- Internet games work as escapism from stressful aspects of life, particularly for role-playing games.
- Players of online games often keep playing to try to beat high scores, reach the next level, or discover new aspects of the game.
- Because online games are usually seen as harmless, few people associate extensive use with addiction to the game.
- Video games can create strong feelings in players, making them both rewarding and challenging.
What Experts Know About Internet Game Addiction
While many people, including gamers themselves, recognize the addictive properties of many video games and online role-playing games, the APA only recently decided to term obsessive video game-playing “internet gaming disorder.” While this is not yet a diagnosable process addiction, further study may lead to psychologists and psychiatrists diagnosing and treating people in the near future. As part of this term, the psychiatric organization provided a list of nine symptoms for diagnosis research. These symptoms include:
- Persistent use of internet games, leading to distress or problems functioning
- Unsuccessful attempts to limit participation
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Deceiving others about the amount of time spent on games
- Problems in relationships, school, or work because of Internet games
- Anxiety when the online game is unavailable
- Social withdrawal
- Losing personal, professional, or academic opportunities as a result of gaming
What Can Be Done About Internet Game Addiction?
The first step in treating internet game addiction is to realize that there is a problem in the first place. If you see any of the symptoms of addiction described above in yourself or someone you love, it is most likely time to pull back from playing video games. The symptoms described by the APA broadly align with the signs and symptoms of addictive behaviors more generally and should therefore be taken seriously. Thankfully, addiction—whether to drugs or video games—is manageable. If you think that you may have an addiction to internet games, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Break an Addiction at Northpoint Recovery
At Northpoint Recovery, a leading provider of addiction treatment in Boise, Idaho, our team of medical and mental health professionals is dedicated to helping individuals struggling with addiction find the path to lasting recovery. Contact us online or call 208.486.0130 to learn more about our programs.