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date: 08 February 2023

Games Addiction: A Comprehensive Overviewlocked

Games Addiction: A Comprehensive Overviewlocked

  • Felix ReerFelix ReerDepartment of Communication, University of Muenster
  •  and Thorsten QuandtThorsten QuandtDepartment of Communication, University of Muenster

Summary

The study of addictive media use has a rather long tradition in media effects research and constitutes an interdisciplinary field that brings together scholars from communication science, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. While older works focused on radio, film, or television addiction, newer studies have often examined the excessive use of interactive digital media and its consequences. Since the introduction of affordable home computer systems in the 1980s and 1990s, especially the pathological use of digital games (games addiction) has been discussed and investigated intensively. However, early research on the topic suffered from considerable methodological limitations, which made it difficult to assess the spread of the problem objectively. These limitations notwithstanding, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided to include the addictive use of digital games (Internet gaming disorder) as a “condition for further study” in its diagnostical manual, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), in 2013. A few years later, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially acknowledged addictive game use as a diagnosable mental condition (gaming disorder) by listing it in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Some scholars viewed the decisions of the APA and the WHO with skepticism, arguing that healthy players may be stigmatized, while others greeted them as important prerequisites to facilitate appropriate therapies. Despite the question of whether the inclusion of disordered game use in the manuals of the APA and the WHO has greater advantages than disadvantages, it definitely triggered a research boom. New scales testing the APA and the WHO criteria were developed and applied in international studies. Representative studies were conducted that indicated that at least a small percentage of players seemed to show playing patterns that indeed could be considered problematic. Further, the correlates of gaming disorder have been examined extensively, showing that the addictive use of digital games is associated with particular demographics, motivations, and personality aspects as well as with other diverse impairments, such as physical and psychological health issues and problems in the social and working lives of affected players. However, the debate about the accuracy of the definitions and diagnostic criteria postulated by the APA and the WHO has not ended, and more high-quality research is needed to further improve the understanding of the causes, consequences, and specifics of gaming disorder. In addition, new aspects and innovations, such as micropayments, loot boxes, and highly immersive technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality systems, may expose gamers to new risks that future debates and research need to consider.

Subjects

  • Communication and Technology
  • Health and Risk Communication
  • International/Global Communication

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