There are five aspects of internet addiction noted by Shaw and Black (2008): Cyber sexual addiction,

There are five aspects of internet addiction noted by Shaw and Black (2008): Cyber sexual addiction, cyber-relational addiction, net compulsions, information overload, and computer addiction. The main subtype we will be looking at is computer addiction, as it is described as “Many computers come equipped with pre-programmed games and people become addicted to playing them at the cost of work performance or family obligations”. There is a lot of controversy over the overlap of devices in gaming, which has resulted in an ambiguous definition for computer games and computer game addiction. For instance, a game that was made for a video game console now has an internet version, a computer game has moved onto the tablet, gambling has also moved to the internet, etc. We will extend their definition to include all computer games playable on a web-enabled device that is not a video-game console, as computer games are recreational activities that are meant to be enjoyed, and outside of educational games have little productive value.

The following are in depth examinations of computer-game addiction symptoms as studied by researchers as well as real life-examples. Running Head:
Persistence, or behavioral salience, is an activity that dominates a person’s behavior to the point that self-maintenance is neglected. In 1938, Skinner created a device that allowed rats to push a lever that would release a pellet into their cage. Once the rats realized that the action of pressing the lever resulted in a reward, they continued to press the lever until exhaustion. Doing so demonstrated an aspect of operant conditioning called positive reinforcement, in which a reward stimulus will result in the continuation or increased frequency of a behavior. In Loftus and Loftus’ (1983) study, they found similar behavior in humans, except with video arcade games such as Pac-man and Invaders.

The reward stimulus is often a higher score, accomplishing a task, or defeating a virtual enemy which causes a feeling of achievement. People would gain injuries by standing in front of a machine for hours and repeatedly moving a joystick or pushing buttons, resulting in blisters, callouses, etc. These injuries were given humorous names, such as Pac-man’s Elbow which refers to a mild form of tendinitis. These injuries have become more varied across different platforms for gaming and computing usage. Commonly cited injuries include tired eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. due to staring at a computer screen and repeating the same keystrokes when playing.

Besides repeating an action to the point of self-harm, computer game addiction is more associated with ignoring bodily needs in favor of playing. The BBC (2005) posted an article about a man in South Korea who played for 50 hours straight in an internet café, and eventually collapsed from exhaustion. He died in the hospital from heart failure. There are several reports of gamers refusing to use the bathroom or using a bottle to release their urine, and eating little food or snacks to nourish themselves; all to remain in front of the computer for a while longer (Chappell et al., 2006). Many of these stories usually stem from developed countries in Asia such Running Head: COMPUTER GAME ADDICTION Poon 8 as China, South Korea, and Japan where computer gaming is more accepted and popular than in the United States.

For instance in South Korea, StarCraft is a popular spectator sport and one needs a license in order to qualify to play as a pro-gamer. Computer Game Addiction has been recognized as a formal disorder in these countries, and the government has taken steps against it by creating programs and clinics to battle against it. In South Korea, after repeated incidents of self-neglect leading to death, and the death of a child that was neglected by its parents, they have enacted policies to fight against computer addiction(Cho, 2010).

These policies include opening several counseling centers, boot camps for addicted children and teenagers during summer and winter break, and people under eighteen being prohibited from playing in internet cafes between midnight and 8 am (Bosker, 2010; Cain, 2010). China has also enacted policies that include opening treatment centers and requiring minors to use their government IDs to track and shorten usage (Sung, 2009). The government targets the young, as they are under the care of their parents and are also at risk for computer game addiction (Thomas and Martin, 2010). The popularity and acceptance of computer games in developed Asia, as well as their policies against computer game addiction could be a possible future for America.

Risked Relationships

In addiction, one may drift away or alienate one’s close relations in favor of the substance or activity. In a two case study by Griffiths (2010), he examined two different sides of the social aspects of computer gaming. The first case featured Dave who began to play World of Warcraft for ten to fourteen hours a day after finishing his degree and before getting his first job. Although he played excessively, he was able to gain and maintain new friends through the game, only played because he was in a situation with a lot of time, and eventually dropped out of playing when he formed new commitments in real life.

In the second case, a married man with two Running Head: COMPUTER GAME ADDICTION Poon 9 children named Jeremy, was interviewed. He claimed that he played in order to escape from his problems. In the midst of his addiction he played up to fourteen hours a day, began to lose his close connection with his wife, and called in sick at work in order to play more. He eventually lost his job and his wife. He has since been referred to a clinical psychologist. Although Dave played as excessively as Jeremy, he was able to stop playing and it did not ruin his life. Jeremy’s gaming ended up being both the solution and problem that caused a vicious cycle of abuse which resulted in him losing his family and his work.

It has also been reported that several parents have neglected their children in favor of computer and/or internet games. In the case of the Kims, they played a game named Prius, a fantasy, Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing game (MMORPG). They raised a virtual child named Animus in the game, while only feeding and changing their child in between gaming sessions. The child died due to malnourishment, and they were sentenced to jail. Another parent, a single mother, played a social game named Small Worlds, and neglected her small children and two dogs. The children fed themselves from bean cans every day, and the two dogs died from malnourishment.

Gamers often become too invested and immersed in their games, and as they play longer hours they begin to lose contact with their real world relationships. Although in Dave’s experience, in which he displayed excessive behavior, he did not display this addictive symptom. For some gamers, it is possible to play long hours and not be considered addicted, and there are varying levels of risked relationships. In young teenagers, they may simply pass up on family engagement in order to play games (Thomas & Martin, 2010). In the situations of the Kims, Jeremy, and the single mother, they all played excessively and ignored their social responsibilities.

The basis of any addiction is the negative consequences that come with using a substance or doing an activity. With pathological gaming, the criteria for it includes resorting to crimes to fund one’s own activity or pay off debts one has accumulated. However, articles in the media indicate a trend that many crimes may occur either due to frustration surrounding the game, or to copycat violent acts from the game. One man in China stabbed his friend because the friend had sold a virtual sword on eBay for money (BBC, 2005).

In another case, a mother in Florida shook her 3-month baby to death for crying when she was playing Farmville (CBSNews, 2010). In the instance of grand theft auto, there have been copycats who have set out to repeat the crimes they committed in game; one group of teenagers in Garden City, New York decided to live out the popular action-adventure, crime game named grand theft auto. They committed burglary, beat some men, attempted to steal a car, and even punched a police officer in the face. Their only motivation was that they were bored (Crowley, 2008).

There is a media stereotype that violent games will increase a child’s propensity for violence. Markey and Markey (2010) attempted to predict certain personality types that would be most affected by violent video games. They found that those high in neuroticism and low in agreeableness and conscientiousness are susceptible to violent games, but only a few individuals truly act on these impulses in a manner that is noticeable. The individuals that are noted above may have had other disorders which caused them to act in this violent manner.


Weinstein (2010) conducted a study that looked at levels of Dopamine in both a control group and a group of former ecstasy users. They allowed both
groups to play a motorbike-riding computer game and monitored brain chemistry using single-photon emission computed before and after game play. They found that there were increased levels of dopamine in the ventral striatum, which is comparable to amounts produced by amphetamines. Former ecstasy users had little change in brain chemistry, which may be due to tolerance from previous ecstasy usage. The researcher also found that males had greater activation and functional connectivity in the meso-cortico-limbic system than in females.

Weinstein (2010) suggests that gaming usage/craving may use the same neurological reward system as substance dependence, that gender differences explain why there are more males playing and addicted to games, and that computer game addicted players may also show reduced dopamine levels after playing computer games due to sensitization. This study may not be very valid concerning the ex-ecstasy group, as they only recruited users and the sample size was small. Thaleman et al. (2007) confirmed these results by examining male computer players of different playing intensities, and seeing how they reacted to computer cues. Using Electroencephalography, they found that the excessive computer game players had stronger cue-reactivity to computer scenes than casual players. They also came to the conclusion that sensitization of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system caused greater computer salience in a similar manner of substance abusers to drugs.


In the case of many computer games, you purchase a single game and then you hand out no more money. However, game companies have changed their model to increase profits, and now offer money options to buy more in-game weapons or power-ups, gain advantages within the game, or to renew a subscription to a game. In the case of buying in-game items, children who do not understand money and have access to their parents’ credit card may accidentally rack up a debt (Insley, 2010). They may not understand that money purchased for the game translates into real world money.

Furthermore, internet gambling has become increasingly popular and may soon be legal (Jonsson, 2011). It is possible to bid real money and earn money, as well as lose money. The same problems of gambling addiction occur without a casino, and with the convenient use of the computer. Internet gambling may be even worse as it is a solitary activity and it is possible to play for hours or days without anyone seeing or stopping oneself. Furthermore, virtual money that has been converted from real money no longer seems like having monetary value, and thereby creating an inhibiting effect which would cause greater spending. It is harder to determine the difference between 100 dollars and a thousand dollars when it is on the screen, and there is nothing physical within one’s hands.

Emotional Dependence.

Emotional stability is dependent on a secure attachment to a person or thing (Arntz, 2006). In Griffiths (2010), the case study of the Jeremy demonstrated one of the motives for playing computer games: escape. Computer players may use computer games as a way to solve emotional problems, and to get away from reality. This may create a self-repeating cycle, as the problem is not solved and only delayed which creates more conflict for the individual and cause them to play more. Stetina et al. (2011) looked at male MMORPG game users and found that they tend to have low self-esteem that use gaming as a way to interact socially. In this manner, some or perhaps many gamers are more emotionally and socially invested in their gameplay than someone who does not need computer games to interact. In Hussain and Griffiths‘ (2009) study, they gave an online questionnaire to online gamers of MMORPGs, and found that they displayed behavioral and psychological dependence to gaming.

This attachment to computer games may negatively impact one’s work. Thomas and Martin (2010) looked at Tasmanian secondary and college students and split them into groups depending on game play hours. They found that students preferred playing over spending time with friends and family and doing homework which negatively impacted their Grade Point Average. The researchers also found that the college populations used games to escape their problems or unpleasant feelings as well as to chase a higher score. Emotional dependence may be either symptomatic of addiction, or a cause of computer game addiction. Computer Game Addiction – Symptoms, Treatment, & FAQs

What is 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.

Is computer game addiction a diagnosable disorder?

According to the DSM-IV (the current manual for classifying emotional, psychological, and mental disorders), no. Although there have beencalls from some mental health professionals (and parents) to recognize computer game addiction as a “real” disorder, it has not been granted official diagnostic status. As more research on the effects of excessive gaming is conducted, many believe that it is only a matter of time before computer game addiction is classified as a compulsive behavior similar to gambling addiction.

What are the symptoms of computer game addiction?

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…

•Significant interference with school, work, or relationships

•Often avoiding other commitments in order to keep playing

•Frequently turning down social invitations in favor of gaming

•Using most or all of one’s free time for gaming

•Regularly playing late into the night and which results in poor sleep habits

•Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

•Regular gaming “binges” of 8 hours or more nonstop

Who is most at risk for computer game addiction?

Although virtually anyone who plays computer games could become addicted (see “Boyfriend or Husband Addicted to Video Games?”), certain groups appear to be more likely to develop unhealthy levels of play. These groups include:


•Children and teens

•People with other psychological difficulties (e.g., depression, low self-esteem, anxiety)

•Individuals with long periods of unstructured time (for example, a teen who is not involved in other activities outside of school)

•Those with higher levels of neurotocism

•Children who are more impulsive and have weaker social skills

See the article “Video Game Addiciton Risks Factors” for more information.

Why are computer games addictive?

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 games…

•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

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