Is Video Game Addiction a Serious Problem?

Is Video Game Addiction a Serious Problem?

Many students put aside other tasks because they become absorbed in the video game. –Graphic by Katie Winslow

Call of Duty. Farmville. Tetris. Halo. Whether or not you are a gamer, it is hard not to be influenced by video games. In a short time, video games have joined movie and music as a premier source of entertainment.

The first electronic game was created in 1947, and was called the Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device. It was a simple shooter where you aimed an oscilloscope and shot missiles at various targets. The game did not use actual graphics; instead, it used overlays to create the targets. While the game used no programming or graphics, it is still considered the first electronic game, and led to all other video games.

Another game was Noughts and Crosses in 1952, which was the first computer game to use actual graphics, and thus considered the first true video game. Players had to defeat a computer at “Noughts and Crosses”, or Tic-Tac-Toe. It would take the game Pong another 20 years to popularize videogames. Now, gaming is a huge part of many people’s lives.

The numbers show video game popularity in a big way. “Call of Duty: Black Ops” sold over seven million units in the first day it was released alone. The Nintendo Wii console is owned by about one quarter of all U.S.families. Video games will likely grow even more popular with releases like Microsoft’s Kinect. But there could be a dark side to this seemingly harmless industry: addiction.

Statistics of video game addiction provided by Katherine Long. — Courtesy of

Awareness about video game addiction is growing. At least 11 deaths have been blamed on video game addiction, and this is increasing media attention. According to, a woman shook her own baby to death because its crying was interrupting her playing of the Facebook game “Farmvillea��. If this event occured due to her addiction or mental instability is unknown.

The American Psychiatric Association does not officially consider video game addiction to be a mental disorder, due in part to a lack of research on the subject. This makes it difficult to figure out what actually causes video game addiction, and how to treat it. Support for it to be considered an addiction is growing though, as 85 percent of scholars now say that online gaming addiction is a real disorder.

One definition of video game addiction is a “pathological use [of video games] that is damaging functioning,” and symptoms include neglecting social commitments and hygiene to play. Another symptom is playing for more than 24 hours a week. According to this definition, more than 8.5 percent of American youth could be classified as addicted.The cause of video game addiction has not been clearly defined. However, studies show that games can fill a need for excellence and mastery in life for some people. With games offering rewards to people, even simple ones like leveling-up or getting new equipment, players can become obsessed with getting them all. While this is okay for games with a clear end, modern games are starting not to have one.

“World of Warcraft”, a popular multiplayer online game, has dozens of hours worth of single player content. Then you throw in the factor that “loot drops’ (treasure from killing monsters) are randomized and the game almost starts to resemble a slot machine. Just play one more time, and you might hit the jackpot, albeit a virtual one. This is just one of many ways games can get players addicted.

One student who knows the addictive qualities of video games is sophomore Jennifer Woo. “I was really addicted [to video games] over the summer,” said Woo. “I would play as soon as I got up to when I got tired.” Her family, including sister Michelle Woo, would constantly nag at her that she was playing too much. But the addiction still lasted her two months.

However, when asked, Woo said that it did not affect her social life. She said that if friends asked her to hang out, she would. In fact, she said that she actually gained some new online friends, and strengthened her existing ones through playing with them online. “From a personal standpoint, I didn’t let it affect my school life; [it was] just over the summer,” said Woo.

Ethics officer Daniel Loton did a study on video game addiction affecting social life, and came to the same conclusion as Woo did. He found that even excessively playing video games only very slightly affected social skills in young adults. But a study by psychologist Richard M. Ryan found that teens playing video games for more than 20 hours a week showed mood swings and poor relationships with others.

The differing results, along with few other studies into video game addiction, fail to paint a clear picture about how dangerous this addiction is. However, this has not stopped some countries from trying to treat video game addiction. Just last year, a clinic called ReSTART was opened in the United States specifically to help treat online addiction, joining pre-existing clinics in South Korea where video game addiction is a major concern.

The program starts with taking away all access to electronics. Then the teens go through a sort of boot camp, with a strong emphasis on physical exercise and teamwork. The hope is that the camp will build real world relationships for the teen, and weaken the desire to go online for social interaction. However, whether these camps actually cure the addiction has not been completely established yet.

Even at RHS there are differing views on the effects of gaming. While Woo did not think gaming was a negative influence, junior Michael Chang did. “[Video game addiction] affected my social life quite a lot,” said Chang. At the height of his addiction, he would play two hours a day, causing strain between him and his family. “My sister would call me a nerd, [with] no life,” he said.

However, Chang, like Woo, was able to at least partially get over this addiction. Woo eased off playing once summer ended, and has turned her attention towards her academics. Now, she does not play at all. “When I did play during schoola�� it was balanced,” said Woo.

While video game addiction is most certainly real, that does not mean video games are naturally bad. “Playing video games is not a crime,” said counselor June Jetabut. Balanced video gaming even has many positive effects. It can increase hand-eye coordination, observation and pattern-identifying skills, among other things. Educational games are also increasingly used in elementary schools to teach kids in a fun way.

Both Woo and Chang reported that they gained friends through playing video games. “Playing with other people you get to know them morea�� and when you’re meeting with each other you have something to talk about,” said Woo. Video games can also be a good way to get to know more people by sharing a similar interest, such as playing Call of Duty.

The question of this whole piece is, is video game addiction a serious problem? The answer? It can be. For teens, video games can be simply distractions, though it may turn into a serious addiction, with serious consequences. Whether it will or not depends on the individual, not the game.

When it comes to any type of activity, balance is almost always the key. “If you are obsessively doing any one thing, that can [turn into a] danger,” said Jetabut. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I am just a few kills away from ranking 40 in Black Ops.


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