Are you addicted to video games?

The following survey was published by a research study at the Iowa State University conducted by Douglas Gentile, PhD [1]. The following questions are based on diagnostic criteria for addictive gambling behavior:

  1. Over time, have you been spending much more time playing video games, learning about video game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?
  2. Do you need to spend more time and money on video games in order to feel the same amount of excitement as other activities in your life?
  3. Have you tried to play video games for shorter durations of times but have been unsuccessful?
  4. Do you become restless or irritable when you attempt to cut down or stop playing video games?
  5. Have you played video games as a way to escape problems or negative feelings?
  6. Have you lied to family or friends about how much you play video games?
  7. Have you ever stolen a video game from a store or a friend, or stolen money to buy a video game?
  8. Do you sometimes skip household chores in order to play more video games?
  9. Do you sometimes skip homework or work in order to play more video games?
  10. Have you ever done poorly on a school assignment, test, or work assignment because you have spent so much time playing video games?
  11. Have you ever needed friends or family to give you extra money because you’ve spent too much of your own money on video games, software, or game Internet fees?

If you answered “yes” to six or more of these questions, then you most likely have an addiction to video games. If “yes” is answered to five or less questions, then there may be a problem. Help can be found on this resources page. “Video game addiction” and “Internet addiction” are not yet official medical diagnoses with standardized criteria. Behaviors become “addictions” when they disrupt real life, such as school or work performance, real life relationships, and activities of daily living. Use this survey as a guide to determine if video games and/or Internet use may be a problem in your life, but do not use the survey to make a “clinical diagnosis”.

Signs & Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

  • Unable to estimate time spent gaming.
  • Unable to control gaming for an extended period of time.
  • Sense of euphoria while playing.
  • Craving more game time.
  • Neglecting family and friends.
  • Restless, irritable, or discontented when not gaming.
  • Lying about the amount of time gaming.
  • Experiencing problems with school or job performance.
  • Feeling guilt, shame, anxiety, or depression as a result of gaming.
  • Change in sleep patterns.
  • Health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, eyestrain, weight change, backache, etc.
  • Denying, minimizing, and rationalizing the bad consequences of gaming.
  • Withdrawing from and neglecting real-life hobbies.
  • Obsession about acting out sexual fantasies through the Internet.
  • Creation of an enhanced persona to find cyber-love or cyber-sex.
  • Eating an increasing number of meals at the computer while gaming.
  • Increased time surfing game-related websites.
  • Constant conversation about the video game with uninterested friends or family.
  • Continued attempts to convince friends and family members to play.
  • Purchasing in-game items with real-life money.
  • Feeling the need to stand up for other gamers.
  • Continually bringing up life achievements to rationalize playing games for hours each day, e.g. “I provide for the family, and therefore I deserve to play as much as I like.”

Withdrawing from Video Gaming Can Produce These Symptoms

  • Anger and verbal abuse.
  • Feelings of emptiness, depression, or relief.
  • Disruption of sleep.
  • Fantasies and dreams about gaming.
  • The urge to go back to gaming and to attempt to control the time played.
  • Obsessing about the game for long periods of time.
  • Rampant, uncontrolled mood swings.
  • Excessive crying, fear, irritability, or restlessness.
  • Sadness, loneliness, or boredom.
  • Inability to find new activities or interests.
  • Lack of motivation or direction.
  • Excessive amounts of time spent sleeping.
  • Difficulty facing obligations.
  • Feeling as though returning to gaming will solve problems.
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, allergies, colds, hemorrhoids, dry eyes, urinary incontinence, and constipation.
  • Restless, unfulfilling, and taunting dreams.

The Video Game Addiction Questionnaire (Gentile 2009)

1. Over time, have you been spending much more time thinking about playing video games, learning about video-game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child cannot list more than three activities he loves more than video games.
  • Your child says he is bored when not playing video games.
  • Your child begs you to play.
  • Your child spends significant time researching and watching YouTube videos about his video game.
  • Your child is preoccupied during the weekday with anticipation for the allotted “game time” permitted on the weekends.
  • Your child does school projects about video games.

2. Do you need to spend more time and/or money on video games in order to feel the same amount of excitement as other activities in your life?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child needs to play every day.
  • Your child sacrifices social activities with friends and family to play video games.
  • Your child quits sports or other hobbies, replacing the time with more gaming.
  • When gaming with friends at your home, your child keeps playing even after they leave.
  • Your child games when non-gaming friends come to play and wants them to watch him play.
  • Your child’s best friends are gamers and for teens, they game when they are together all through the night.
  • Your child has diminishing passion for age appropriate childhood activities, but replaces time with gaming and is visibly excited about gaming.
  • Your child asks mostly for video games and gaming or computer equipment as gifts.
  • Your child wants gaming to be his reward for any positive contribution he makes to your home.

3. Have you tried to play video games for shorter durations of times but have been unsuccessful?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child gets less and less exercise and outside play, replacing the time with gaming.
  • Attempts to cut back game time fail.

4. Do you become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop playing video games?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • You are arguing with your spouse over your child’s gaming and the conflict gaming is causing.
  • Your child gets restless, mean or irritable to you or others if he can’t play.
  • Your child gets depressed when gaming is not allowed.
  • Your child exhibits gamer rage, angry outbursts, and violence when asked to stop playing games or when he loses in the game.
  • Gamer yells at or threatens siblings if they interfere with his game.
  • Your child protests his lack of play by sitting out of family activities and doing nothing, demonstrating that he would rather do nothing else if he can’t play his game.
  • Your child plays his game on family vacations; he can’t enjoy much else.

5. Have you played video games as a way of escaping from problems or bad feelings?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • You have a gut feeling that your child is addicted to video games.
  • Your child pleads for video game time as a way to escape from daily stress.
  • Your child states video gaming is the “only thing he/she loves”.
  • Your child retreats to his bedroom to play when he has had a disappointment in life.
  • When your child is hurt, you want to let him play so he will feel better.

6. Have you ever lied to family or friends about how much time you play video games?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child grossly underestimates the time spent playing video games.
  • Your child lies about gaming sessions.
  • Your child pretends to be ill to stay home from school, replacing time with gaming.
  • Your child claims to be doing homework but is really gaming instead.
  • Your child closes or changes the screen when you walk into the room.

7. Have you ever stolen a video game from a store or a friend, or have you ever stolen money to buy a video game?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child runs up your credit card bill with gaming items and video game purchases.
  • Your child steals money to purchase virtual items in video games.
  • Your child gets your passwords for credit cards and secretly uses them or steals money from your wallet.

8. Do you sometimes skip household chores in order to spend more time playing video games?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child’s gaming affects his obedience to you.
  • Your child asks for “just one more level” before he does his chores or homework.
  • Conflict is increasing around gaming and you are arguing more with spouse.
  • You are exhausted over arguing about his chores and you have lowered the bar for his help around the house, cleaning his room, taking out the trash. It is easier for mom to do it to keep the peace at home.

9. Do you sometimes skip doing homework in order to spend more time playing video games?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child rushes through homework in order to play.
  • Your child rarely spends extra time studying or reading about school subjects.
  • Your child is not prepared for school on Monday.
  • Your child makes excuses about why his homework is not done and talks negatively about teachers and other authority.

10. Have you ever done poorly on a school assignment or test because you spent too much time playing video games?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child plays at night, sacrificing sleep, while you are in bed.
  • Your child is “very smart” but is under-achieving in academics, getting ‘Bs’ when he is an ‘A’ student.

11. Have you ever needed friends or family to give you extra money because you spent too much money on video game equipment, software, or game/Internet fees?

The above question may appear in the home as:

  • Your child is constantly asking for money as birthday and holiday gifts, only to spend it on video games and virtual items in the games. Games are on the top of his gift list.
  • Your child only spends his money and allowances on video games and virtual items in the games.
  • You find yourself driving him to get the newest game the day it comes out.

Common Mistakes Parents Make

  • Allowing gaming too young.
  • Using gaming for a digital babysitter.
  • Using gaming as a reward system for homework, grades, chores.
  • Not knowing how many hours are really being spent gaming.
  • Putting the game system or computer in their room or basement.
  • Having a false security in the game rating systems and not knowing the content.
  • Tolerating gaming disobedience: “Just one more level mom!”
  • Seeing gaming as a way for your son to be popular with friends.
  • Allowing him to say no to friends or quit activities so he can game more.
  • Letting your kids always use gaming for down time activity.
  • Believing that he will outgrow it once he goes to college.
  • Allowing gaming without a basic understanding of the content and effects of gaming.
  • Subconsciously allowing gaming to keep your son under your close watch, and safe in your home from the dirt, skinned knees, and risks that are a natural part of young children growing into an independent young adult.

Reference

1. Gentile, Douglas. “Pathological Video-Game Use Among Youth Ages 8 to 18.” Psychol Sci. 2009 Jun;20(6):785.

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