Video Game Addiction: Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?
Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter are familiar names to nearly all of us. They are all best selling games of major video game consoles. Over 9.8 billion dollars were spent on video games in the United States during 2001 alone, and video game consoles are present in 36 million homes in the United States (1). With the increasing amount of time that people are spending on video games, one is left to wonder if it is possible to become addicted to video games. Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous?
Addiction has been defined as "A primary, chronic disease, characterized by impaired control over the use of a psychoactive substance and/or behavior. Clinically, the manifestations occur along biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual dimensions (2)." While there is currently no category for video game addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3), which is the manual utilized to diagnose psychological disorders, video game addicts are often described by clinicians in the field as displaying many symptoms characteristic of other addictions. These behaviors include failure to stop playing games, difficulties in work or school, telling lies to loved ones, decreased attention to personal hygiene, decreased attention to family and friends, and disturbances in the sleep cycle (4). Withdrawal symptoms can even include behaviors as severe as shaking (5).
All addictions can be dangerous and harmful to the addicted person and others around him; however, video game addiction can be particularly detrimental to children. Video games are becoming increasingly popular with children of young ages, which in turn may raise the likelihood that these children will develop addictions to video games. Furthermore, playing violent games may be associated with a tendency to behave more aggressively, although the data are inconclusive about the cause and effect nature of this relationship (6). In a study by Irwin and Gross, children who played a violent video game displayed a higher level of aggression than children who played a nonviolent game (6). Similarly, in a study by Calvert and Tan, college students who played a violent video game reported more aggressive thoughts after playing the game than college students who played a nonviolent game (6). Although several researchers advocate the position that video games cause violent behavior in children and adults, there are also many researchers who support the opposite belief, which is that video games purge one's desire to act violently and thus reduce the amount of violence in which a person will engage (5). Other detrimental effects of video games include taking time away from a child's studies or homework and decreased social skills (5). Finally, despite possible detrimental effects of excessive video game playing, there are benefits to playing video games in moderation. For instance, video...