What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction is the overuse of computer and video games to the extent that it interferes with the rest of life. Typical addicted video gamers play to the point that they lack social contact and choose to participate in in-game events and achievements to the extent that they miss out on real-life events. One example of this on the media was when a man played hours of Everquest weekly, and chose to play Everquest rather than attend his brother’s wedding. Video game addiction was proposed as a psychological disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Nevertheless, it is a serious condition that can affect one’s social, mental and psychological health.


EverquestCredit: wikipediaStudies have shown that approximately 3% of gamers may experience symptoms of video game addiction, although this is inconclusive. It is believed that video game addiction is the result of mental health issues, not the other way around. MMORPG (Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) players were more likely to play longer hours than other types of gamers. Gaming overuse was defined as playing for over two hours per day.


Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine attempts to identify the causes behind such addictions. There has been found that video games do exhibit addictive characteristics. Based on MRI scans, part of the brain that generates feelings of rewards is activated during the game, driving the need to achieve such rewards in video games. This part of the brain is more activated in men and women, which helps to explain why males are more addicted to gaming than females.

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

Many have described video game addiction as being similar to drug addiction. There have been instances where individuals that go without video games for long periods of time become agitated, lose sleep and other similar withdrawal symptoms. Players play for many hours daily whenever possible and regard hygiene as a waste of time and can experience weight gain or loss due to excessive playing. Addicted video gamers may avoid spending time with friends and family, choosing to spend time on the game instead.

Case Studies of Video Game Addiction

There have been many cases where an individual has harmed him or herself through intense video gaming to the extent that their mental, emotional and physical health declined.  Some of these cases even lead to eventual death.


2001 – Shawn Woolley committed suicide as a result of the MMORPG Everquest. His mother claims the suicide result from rejection from a character called “iluvyou”.

2002 – A woman from Louisiana, USA, sued Nintendo after her son died from suffering seizures due to playing Nintendo 64 for eight hours a day, six days a week. Nintendo denied any responsibility.

2005 – In Shanghai, China, Qiu Chengwei stabbed Zhu Caoyuan, a fellow player, after Zhu Caoyuan had sold a dragon saber sword that Qiu Chengwei lent him in Legend of Mir 3 on eBay. Qiu Chengwei was given a suspended death sentence.

Rebecca Colleen Christie, a New Mexico woman, was convicted of second degree murder and abandonment after it was discovered her 3 and a half year old daughter died of malnutrition and dehydration. Rebecca had been too busy playing World of Warcraft online.

2007 – A teen from Ohio, USA named Daniel Petric shot his parents after they confiscated his game Halo 3. Subsequently, his mother died and Petric was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.

2009 – A 3 month old child in Korea named Kim Sa-Rang, died of malnutrition after her mother StarcraftCredit: wikipediaand father spent hours every day in an internet café raising a virtual child in the online game Prius Online.


As can be seen, video game addiction is a very serious issue that must be addressed, especially with the advent of newer technology and the introduction of youth to technology at increasingly younger ages. These are only a few of the many stories that show up on the media from around the globe to demonstrate the extent to which video game addiction affects people.

Prevention and Treatment

Video gaming addiction has raised the awareness of governments in areas that such addictions are prominent, such as China, South Korea, Canada and the USA. In China, there have been stringent rules towards citizens under the age of 18 in an effort to prevent video game addiction. For instance, online game users must identify themselves using resident identity hours. After playing for three hours, all players under 18 are shown a message where they are encouraged to perform physical exercise. After these three hours, their characters gain only half of the usual experience. After five hours, the online characters gain no experience at all.


Treatment centers have been opened in some countries, including South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. However, due to the lack of research in this area, there is still much to be learnt about proper treatment for video game addicts. Many treatment centers treat video game addictions as they would for any other addiction, with the combination of psychopharmacology, psychotherapy and multi-step programs towards healing.


In the United States, there is a Computer Addiction Services sector in McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. Other general addiction support centers offer help and therapy for video gamers as well. In 2002, Online Gamers Anonymous was formed. This is an American non-profit organization that provides a twelve-step, self-help program with support and recovery for gamers and their family and friends. Also, websites such as www.gamingaddiction.net, provide help and information to gamers and their loved ones. Such websites help explain what gaming is, what is excessive gaming, and the steps needed to move towards a healthier, fuller life.

A Closing Note

Even though video game addiction is not formally recognized as a psychological disorder, the detriment to the health of many people and its effect on loved ones shows that video game addiction is a very serious issue. In order to properly understand and treat video game addiction, more research should be done, as well as greater more media coverage on this topic.