Experts Warn Looming 'Video Game Addiction' - Like Compulsive Gambling

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 5 2009 9:03 AM

Video games are addictive. Period.

This is what health experts have to say to video console enthusiasts; the same warning that they have for gamblers who get hooked to cards, warn health experts.

This is quite evident from the growing sales of the games and the hardware amid the ongoing economic slowdown.

According to the report released this week by the Entertainment Merchants Association, consumer spending on video game hardware, software, and accessories rose by 19 percent in 2008 over the previous year to 22.9 billion dollars.

New game console hardware sales increased by 11 percent, despite no price drops from Nintendo or Sony, two of the three major console manufacturers. icrosoft dropped the price of each version of their Xbox 360 console just prior to the holiday 2008 season.

"Our data also shows that the number of video gamers is broadening across many demographics, meaning as people get older they keep playing because they are now playing video games with their kids or getting fit with the Nintendo Wii," Live Science quoted George Van Horn, a senior analyst at IBISworld, as saying.

One factor behind the rise is that the average console game typically provides between 5 and 25 hours of playtime. And after that game is completed, gamers look to a new game, often without replaying the old ones.

"Once a person becomes a video gamer, he or she will remain a video gamer indefinitely, rendering the industry essentially turnover-proof," said Van Horn.

Meanwhile, the belief that video gaming can become addictive has remained controversial.

A new study found that nearly 1 in 10 youths who play video games behaved in ways that were similar to other addictive disorders, such as compulsive gambling.

These behaviours include skipping chores, lying to parents, and even stealing money to support their gaming habits.

Excessive gaming has become a particularly severe problem in Asian countries, where a number of gaming-related deaths have been reported.

But the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has not yet recognised those who play games excessively as having a disorder, though some experts expect that to change.

"With these gamers, there's almost always some other underlying issue such as depression, anxiety or some form of social disorder. But if the game playing poses a barrier to treating any of these other issues, it would have to be addressed separately as a pathology," said Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Sciences University and an APA advisor.

The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science.