A 2007 Harris Poll found that 8.5% of youth gamers (ages 8 to 18) “can be classified as pathological or clinically ‘addicted’ to playing video games.” Another 23% say they have “felt addicted” to video games. These statistics suggest that nearly 1 out of 3 youth gamers have experienced a tug toward compulsive play.3
In 2001 I conducted a survey of virtual world players and found that a shocking 20 percent of them indicated that they think of the virtual world as their true home.4
We don’t know exactly why people become addicted, but research seems to indicate that some people are more prone to addiction than others. I need to point out here that if you’re not a person who struggles with gaming addiction, congratulations. The temptation for the resilient is to dismiss gaming addiction as stupid, with the recommendation that gaming addicts just stop it. If it were that simple, they would have already stopped. The nature of addiction is that stopping is hard. That’s why we have a special name for the phenomenon.
Personality traits may play a role in addiction more generally, as many people seem to have personalities that may predispose them to addiction. One such trait could be sensation seeking. Although taking risks and experimenting with a variety of activities is considered normal, those who are prone to engage in sensation-seeking behaviors may ﬁnd themselves at higher risks for developing a dependence on online gaming. However, studies suggesting sensation seeking as an explanation for online gaming addiction are inconsistent. Self-control may also inﬂuence online gaming.5
You should be aware that some research suggests a cognitive connection between the tendency toward gaming addiction and a tendency toward other addictions (like pornography). Research suggests “that the gaming urge/craving in online gaming addiction and craving in substance dependence might share the same neurobiological mechanism.”6
If you have a teenager who is highly prone to compulsive gaming, you might be tempted to feel that pornography addiction is less of a risk since they’re engaged online in more healthy pursuits. Sadly, there’s a good chance that simply isn’t the case. If you have a compulsive gamer in your family, there’s a better than average chance that this individual is also susceptible to struggles with pornography addiction.
Internet Safety Podcast interview with Liz Woolley, founder of Online Gamers Anonymous
Internet Safety Podcast interview with Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and author of Exodus to the Virtual World (Part I)
Internet Safety Podcast interview with Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and author of Exodus to the Virtual World (Part II)
Internet Safety Podcast Interview with Brad Dorrance of ExGamer.net (Part I)
Internet Safety Podcast Interview with Brad Dorrance of ExGamer.net (Part II)