The Symptoms of Computer Game Addiction

Computer game addiction generally refers to an excessive, unhealthy amount of playing computer games. Rather than engaging in the real world, an addicted user devotes the majority of his or her time to gaming. The addicted gamer often isolates him/herself from others, ignores more important responsibilities, and is often obsessed with obtaining higher status / rankings / achievements in his/her favorite computer game.

Because there is no official diagnosis of computer game addiction, there is obviously no universally agreed upon list of symptoms. Psychologists and other mental health professionals initially adapted the diagnostic criteria for gambling addiction and used this as a rough assessment tool for computer game addiction. This classification approach is rarely used today and for better or for worse, it is essentially up to the individual researcher or clinician to define the symptoms of computer addiction. Still, there are some signs and behaviors that are almost always included in definitions of computer addiction, such as.

First, note that some types of computer games are clearly more addictive than others. For example, most research suggests that MMOs (like World of Warcraft) and FPS games (like Call of Duty) are more addictive than racing games and platformers. For a detailed explanation of why this is, please see “Why are Video Games Addictive?” In brief though, the most additive video games usually employ many well-established psychological principles to encourage longer and longer periods of play. For example, the most addictive computer game.

are based on a leveling system that requires only minimal effort to “level-up” in the early stages…which slowly evolves into very long gaming sessions to reach the next stage as the game progresses

are open-ended with no clearly defined end

require cooperation with other human players to advance in the game…which creates a sense of obligation and dedication to one’s teammates…which translates into more and more time strengthening characters and improving skills

are based on variable-ratio or variable interval schedules of reinforcement that encourages long periods of gaming even in the absence of rewards

Depending on the research methodology and the definition of computer addiction used, estimates range from 2 to 10% of all children who play video games. More accurate and consistent estimates should be possible if formal diagnostic criteria for computer game addiction are introduced.

Whereas alcohol and drug addictions involve both psychological and physiological addiction, computer game addiction is often viewed as an impulse control problem involving psychological addiction only. In this regard, computer game addiction has more in common with gambling addiction than alcohol or drug addiction.

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