NIMF study: 8 percent of gamers addicted

Researcher for parent watchdog group and Iowa State University finds "pathological" behavior correlating to ADD, worse grades in school.

It's not uncommon to hear gamers jokingly praise their favorite games as "addictive," but researchers are treating the issue seriously. A new paper from the National Institute on Media and the Family's director of research (who also serves as an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University) suggests that as many as 8.5 percent of gamers in the US qualify as addicted.

NIMF director of research and Iowa State assistant professor Dr. Douglas Gentile.

The paper's author, Dr. Douglas Gentile, commissioned a Harris Poll survey of 1,178 US gamers between the ages of 8 and 18, asking them questions about games modeled after other addiction tests. Gentile asked respondents 11 questions about their gaming habits to see if the hobby disrupted their ability to function in various aspects of life. If a person answered affirmatively to six or more questions, Gentile considered them an addict, or pathological gamer.

One question asked if players sometimes skipped homework to play games. Others asked if they unsuccessfully tried to cut back on gaming time, played games to escape from problems and bad feelings, or ever stole money in order to play. Respondents could answer "yes," "no," or "sometimes." Counting every "sometimes" response as half of a "yes," Gentile found that 8.5 percent of the gamers surveyed had six or more "yes" answers. If "sometimes" was considered the same as "no," that dropped to 7.9 percent.

"Pathological gamers had been playing for more years, played more frequently and for more time, knew more of the video-game rating symbols, received worse grades in school, were more likely to report having trouble paying attention in school, were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with an attention-deficit disorder, had more health problems that were likely to have been exacerbated by long hours of playing video games (e.g., hand pain and wrist pain), and were more likely to report having felt 'addicted' to games and having friends they thought were 'addicted' to games," he said. "Pathological gamers were also significantly more likely to have been involved in physical fights in the past year."

Although the abstract for the article doesn't mention it, Gentile's paper stresses that his findings only show a correlation between pathological gaming and those factors, and nothing causal.

"It is certainly possible that pathological gaming causes poor school performance, and so forth, but it is equally likely that children who have trouble at school seek to play games to experience feelings of mastery, or that attention problems cause both poor school performance and an attraction to games."

For more on the issue of gaming addiction, check out GameSpot's recently published feature on the subject.

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Discussion

98 comments
edward_fruitman
edward_fruitman

Please keep Video Games Addiction separate from ADD Symptoms. This is a proven fact that video games are a good way to treat kids that come up with problems like ADHD and ADD to schools and colleges. Card Games are already proven for logic building while Angry Birds, 8 Ball Pool and Candy Crush Saga like games are being tested. The story of students and grades is different. When they get addicted, they do not pay attention to their books. That's the factor contributing to their low grades. Otherwise, video games are prominently a tool for treatment of all Attention Deficit Disorders. http://southshoretms.com/

nappan
nappan

@Glade_Gnarr: Plenty can't actually, especially when they're young. Misdiagnoses aside (and that is a big factor with ADHD) children with ADHD often willl pick up a game, play a little, get bored, and move on. However, people with ADHD often have a few activites they get "hyperfocused" on. Reading, Writing, Games, Sports... usually its something complex and involved. As for why, the answers lie somewhere in the architecture of the frontal lobe, both for people with and without ADHD. I realize that isn't a perfect answer, but there are few complex neurological conditions that are very well understood. Even seemingly clear-cut diagnoses such as Epilepsy, degrees of consciousness, the course of a TBI... are not easy to predict or treat. Think of these things like quantum field theory... you can close in on the probable locations of electrons and more, but the closer you get, the greater the uncertainty arises. Studying the brain often perturbs it in ways we don't understand, and is far more complex than the action of say, a single photon. Does that help at all?

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

I don't get ADD, if you can't pay atention at school how can you pay atention with games?

maverick_76
maverick_76

These questions seem skewed a little. I mean everyone has skipped homework to do something else, a better question would have been if they skipped school to play video games. I would think that number is actually much lower, around three to four percent in actuality. This reminds me of the questions to find out if kids were predisposed to violent behavior: "This balloon that I have in my hand, do you want to pop it?" If you answered yes then that could tag you as a violent person, pretty silly right?

emichan24
emichan24

The biggest hole I see here is the correlation to ADD. Someone with ADD that has a big distraction (like games) that can actually change and vary enough to hold their attention, is going to do worse in other things.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

8.5% or 7.9% of kids? i dunno that doesnt seem like a big enough number to bother writing an article about... and really, who can say they havent avoided homework in one way or another thats just natural :)

dark_surge
dark_surge

It would be nice to know what questions were asked exactly, and if the people were informed beforehand that they were taking a addiction test. But questions like "Have you ever skipped homework to play video games" are just silly. You can't ask a question that you know virtually everybody will say "yes" to, and then say that if you answer 5 more as "yes" you are a game addict...and then publish it. On the other hand, and from a different perspective, I remember back when I was in high school and a counselor asked for a raise of hands if we had ever smoked pot. Nobody raised their hands, even though I knew almost a dozen of them personally that did. The problem is that people change their answers based on their state of mind, and on the intrusiveness of the question. You'd get a much more honest answer from people if you asked them what their favorite color was, for example. Moral of the story--Organizations often reword their questions to receive desired answers...and statistics are only as reliable as the honesty of the ones creating it.

Licurgo
Licurgo

WOW is the heroin of games. Thank god I'm clean now.

Jedi_Dad
Jedi_Dad

This report must have come from the Ric Romano institute.

l3erserker
l3erserker

Is it me, or is this concept of game addiction becoming more mainstream than usual? I am sure finding a lot of things posted from Gamespot about it.

nappan
nappan

@StJimmy15: Yeah, they are a little monomaniacal aren't they? lol

slipknot61174
slipknot61174

I've got a FEVER... and the only prescription... is more videogames... Seriously, though: I can stop anytime I want. I just don't want to.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

LOL this study was made by NIMF?? i think they have their own addiction to worry about..

sw33tjimmy
sw33tjimmy

love the comments folks. of course we all know one of the most prevalent signs of addiction is denial, right? Embrace the possibility that video games are not a favorable alternative to real life. If your life stinks so bad that you have to escape from it, then do something about it. Consider Stephen Hawking for crying out loud... it can't be that bad.

hilanderhilande
hilanderhilande

By definition, anything that makes people/a person happy or makes him forget of the bad things in (his/her/their) life is a drug. sidenote from Murphy's Laws: "Everything good in life is either illegal, immoral or fattening."

nappan
nappan

@Yuck Too: Kinda makes you wonder what the "Nymph" Director of Research and Iowa State Asst. Professor Dr. Douglas Dentile. ROFL. Are there NIMFettes? ;)

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

I just cannot take any group who's acronym sounds like "Nymph" seriously...

nappan
nappan

@kbaily: We have free will, but that freedom is tempered by our genetics, background, surroundings, opportunities, friends... etc. When you add it all together, there are only so many degrees of freedom in any given moment that are not purely hypothetical. Addiction is only starting to be understood, and the issue of labeling it a disease, or an issue of will gets in the way. Given the rate of relapse with drugs like Methamphetamine, I think the only solution to addiction is going to be pharmaceutical in nature... not a "by your bootstraps" attitude.

kbaily
kbaily

Let me just say they asked if gamers skipped homework to play games and of course the answer is "yes" DUH. No one wants to do homework. The thing is with addiction, it's not the game's fault just like it's not the alcohol's fault your addicted (heroin's another story) as people we have free will and we have to learn self control. You have to tell yourself "there's a time to play games and a time to work" and the people who can't do that are addicts and probably can't play video games just like alcoholics can't drink at all.

nappan
nappan

@funky_facon: Ocular Osmosis. @poodeek: It's not a drug. Some people are clearly on the susceptible end of the addiction continuum. Like gambling, this isn't about introducing a substance to alter your state of mind. You're getting hooked on your own Dopamine, released because you get excited, entertained, satisfied, etc. It's my experience, especially with MMORPGs, that some games do act like buglights for the fringe element. Second Life is proof of that. *yech*. \ However, virtually every other game that is NOT an MMO isn't trying to get you to play it 24/7. MMO's are uniquely addictive, however I think the most addictive element isn't the game itself, but the shallow social interactions that people get hugely involved in. That doesn't make a game a drug, it's just another item on a long list of habits that people can develop as a way to goose their Dopamine levels; the same goes for food, "x games", skydiving, extreme physical activity, etc. We're creatures built to dance to the tune of our chemistry, and the tool our body uses is essentially addictive reinforcement.

nappan
nappan

@sapphey snake: Yes, but then you'd check population statistics and change your mind. The same thing that is bringing us (the USA) doom in our Social Security, namely the glut of baby boomer's vs the number of their children and current offspring, is at work here. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html Total sidenote, but you got me in the mood... if you want to see a list of interesting articles (many of which are from peer reviewed studies), put this search term into Google: study evidence video game tests performance increased I find it interesting that while we're subjected to this manufacturing of doubt and fear that lobbying groups always attempt, the real studies which are largely finding benefits from some amount of gaming are often ignored. This I can't source, and I freely admit I read in an issue of SciAm, but this study gave people a battery of functional intelligence tests, then after separating a control group, had people play a series of popular games (splinter cell was one). Interestingly enough, it seems that more than the classic view of gaming having some effect on the reflexes alone is wrong. The constant work the brain does considering your spatial relationships, the concept of a map of your surroundings, managing inventory, aim, movement, all translated unconsciously as finger movements on a gamepad or keyboard; it all gives the brain a temporary "boost". This is not unlike, but far longer lasting and more potent than say, listening to Mozart. The most interesting, but least verified portion of the study tested the theory that a particular style of game would be more effective at raising overall performance than another... and even FPS games, vs. some like Tomb Raider seem to be roughly the same. Again, the reason seems be rooted in the multitasking the brain does, between physical and mental activities on a basic level... the higher functions involved in solving a puzzle vs. shooting something didn't show up as significant. Granted that's one study, but if you check the JAMA archives, or JAPA, the greater number of studies show 2 things only. 1.) Gaming improves reflexes and performance on tests that try to gauge functional intelligence. 2.) Gaming can really do damage to your joints and posture. No links to violence. No solid evidence of anything else really. It's surprising, but the public debate isn't shaped by evidence, but passions over this shooting or that stabbing. People want something to blame, and books are almost sacred now, movies and comics have fought those battles already, and now it's gaming's turn. *sigh*

sapphey_snake
sapphey_snake

@nappan the article you mentioned does not say that the majority of gamers are aged 18-34. it studies the gaming habits of several age groups but does not mention which group was the largest. it does however mention that 97 % of American teens (ages 12-18) play video games, versus 53% of adults (ages 18+, including seniors). one can deduce from the article that the majority of gamers are under 18, though in time this number will probably change, cause i suppose most of the teen gamers will continue to play video games when they are adults, while many current adults (especially seniors) may not have been avid gamers when they were teens

funky_facon
funky_facon

so do you smoke, snort, or inject video games?

nappan
nappan

@sapphey snake: The Pew Internet Project studied (among other things) the gaming habits of adults aged 18-34. There are numerous studies about the gaming habits of children younger than 18 to compare, and sales figures, while ambiguous, seem be clarified by that study. Although on its own, it isn't absolute proof, this article is a decent starting point if you want to research my sources, and it links to the PIP. http://seekingalpha.com/article/109919-nearly-all-u-s-teens-majority-of-adults-play-video-games

sapphey_snake
sapphey_snake

@nappan could you provide a source that proves that the majority of gamers are aged 18-34?

55592
55592

@chris_beeley: This survey would serve as a golden example of the importance of double-blind for two equally important reasons: -The people surveyed know the questions want to prove them addicted, and they can easily answer the questions to the contrary if they wish. -The team gathering the data are being contracted by a parent watchdog group to specifically investigate the dangers of video games, and likely do not want to fail in discovering them. This is a repeatable survey, not a repeatable study. They do not have a random sample, only gamers within the same university. And the results showed that 8% of that sample answered yes to the same questions as people who are not psychologically, but chemically addicted to body-altering substances. I also concede an assistant professor with a PhD should know more about the subject than I do, meaning he should know better. I'm sure a used car salesman knows more about purchasing automobiles than I do as well.

chris_beeley
chris_beeley

@55592: With respect, I don't think you know much about research design. Double blind does not apply in studies of this kind, and I can't think why you think it isn't repeatable, as it clearly is. It hasn't been replicated yet, but all of the great scientific findings started out as unreplicated until they'd been published. The author is an assistant professor with a PhD so I think they probably know more about the subject than you do.

sircyrus
sircyrus

I think it would be far higher than 8.5%.

Emraldo
Emraldo

o noes, i is addikt?!

55592
55592

The same study could prove a correlation in book or sports addictions, tv and movie addiction, sex addiction, anything you want. NIMF doesn't seem to understand double-blind, repeatable studies, it doesn't even seem like an actual psychology graduate plotted out this wasteful survey.

Lucidmike78
Lucidmike78

What about the positives to gaming? I attribute to gaming my ability to learn and master new skills and see finish long term challenging projects. A good game will teach you that in order to get to the goal, you must break out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill. After you've repeated this new skill and mastered it, they present to you a new challenge where you must use all the skills you've mastered and learn another new skill to move forward. You are rewarded in the process, and you are encouraged to keep moving forward until you finish the game. This scenario is an analogy to life. When we are presented with new challenges that seem insurrmountable and out of our current abilities, games have taught us that in these situations, brute force and spurt of motivation is not enough. What is going to get us through is to just keep trying and new strategies will be presented. And as you repeat this process, you will accomplish your goal. And the big positive is that everything you learned at the last task can be applied to anything we do in the future. Now, don't you think this is far more important than A's vs B's? I think so. They don't teach you this stuff in school. On top of that, just because you play, say an insane amount of games like 20+ hours a week doesn't mean you'll get worse grades. Its all about how your time is budgeted. Why not reward yourself to gaming after you've pushed yourself to do more schoolwork?

colejd
colejd

So when do we get a 8%er badge like outlaw bikers have the 1%er patch?

poodeek
poodeek

videogames ARE a drug. wake up and open your eyes people. just look at the effects MMORPGs have on some users, some are so obsessed with a stupid game that taking a piss and eating lunch is a distraction from their virtual world...South Park's "Make Love Not Warcraft" is a classic example of what i'm talking about.

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Great, more fuel for the unstoppable BS fire. What else is new? And next month, we'll probably get another article saying something along the lines of "Gaming gives you cancer. And it makes you go to hell. And club seals. Oh, and it increases murder by 1000000000%" :roll:

Roidz87
Roidz87

Okay, this is a little absurd. Honestly, I have played video games my entire life and can say with a straight face that many games are extremely addicting. However, it is all up to the individual to have the willpower to pull themselves away from them and participate in other activities. For example, I am a college student and studying is not very appealing, but if I want to succeed I must do it, and in order to do that I must have the motivation and willpower to do it. This study, while encompassing about 1200 people, is still only a minute sample of the entire gaming community and therefore is not representative of everyone as a whole. Furthermore, 8% is not a very large number out of 1200, in fact, it's only about 96 people. This study is yet another thing that will give gaming a bad rap. Still, aren't there worse things to be addicted to, like drugs? I think a great example is when I go out to the bar and drink. Sure, I like alcohol as much as the next guy, but I know when to limit myself. Playing games is no different; willpower is the key to taming the beast.

polsci1503
polsci1503

Of course the people who use this as ammunition will never talk about the lack of a causal link, only that this is confirmation of addicition... for 8% of the gamers. Unfortunately the other 92% that aren't addicted are also going to be labeled addicts by anyone that doesn't understand gaming. Just more b.s. to fuel the fire.

ShadowBass989
ShadowBass989

im not addicted, i can quit whenever i want!! *hic*

pqual322
pqual322

wow..i wonder how rehab would be...hello im bob and im a gamaholic

Evilone1414
Evilone1414

apperantly my friend "Sarcian" below, is a complete nerd!

Sarcian
Sarcian

I've gamed quite a bit in my life, but that's just how I live. I rarely go more than 2 days without at least playing PSP or DS, and many people accuse me of being 'addicted' to video games. I'm also graduating this year, and I have between a 3.8 and 3.9 GPA. I think that it's all about what else you do. If you JUST play video games, and don't do physical stuff (sports, walking/jogging, swimming, whatever fits your fancy) then you probably are more likely to have problems. It's all about moderation. Again, 8% is pretty weak.

zaku101
zaku101

What game is he playing in the background?

sdcazares1980
sdcazares1980

When you have NIMF doing a study on video game addiction, you know that it's "study" is going to have a "blame-the-video-games-for-society's-ills" slant. But then again, only 8 percent of the gaming population are actually addicted, so what gives? It only shows to prove that gamers are not as addicted as many psychologists claim to be.

tenlong
tenlong

i get all my stuff i need done in a week while playing games a lot i dont play everyday i know when call the line when games get in the way of your life

sirfrieden
sirfrieden

@ kkevguy47k Your statement baffles me... What on earth was the point of those wordseseseseseses?

daabulls23
daabulls23

What 8 year old kid wouldn't skip homework to play video games instead?

Belfento
Belfento

If people play games to escape from problems and bad feelings, maybe we should focus on the problems and bad feelings...

xpopsx
xpopsx

"One question asked if players sometimes skipped homework to play games." so wait if a kid doesnt want to do his home work he is addicted? title is very misleading says 8% addicted to games when 1178 is not even .01% so if every one in the study was addicted then there is no way you could prove 8% of gamers are addicted