Computer and Video Game Addiction—A Comparison between Game Users and Non-Game Users

In this week’s post I review an article by Aviv MalkielWeinstein, Ph.D.  In this article, there is a slight push to decide whether there is a concept of video game addiction.  Before I start with the review, I wanted to highlight a very important quote from a leading researcher in deciding whether the diagnosis should go into the DSM that comes out this year (DSM-5).

“Case studies can highlight the role of context in distinguishing excessive gaming from addictive gaming and can demonstrate that excessive gaming does not necessarily mean that a person is addicted.  It is argued that online gaming addiction should be characterized by the extent to which excessive gaming impacts negatively on other areas of the gamers’ lives rather than the amount of time spent playing. It is also suggested that an activity cannot be described as an addiction if there are few (or no) negative consequences in the player’s life even if the gamer is playing 14 hours a day”

(Author: Griffiths; Website:

The author of this article uses this quote to prove a point that we do not know if it constitutes addiction because while we can see some possible, and I stress possible, characteristics of DSM-IV-TR addiction; it is used in a substance idea formation.  This means it does not take into account other factors and looks at video games as a substance.  According to many individuals who study video games, it does not qualify as a substance, but a medium in which to experience a different world.

The article discusses other points of video game playing and lays down some arguments,  while not backed up by sufficient or conclusive research, that state that we still do not know anything about why we play video games.  Currently many individuals are pointing fingers at them and stating that they “cause” violence when just about all research has shown that it does not.  What they have seen some results with is with aggression, but it lessens after a short period of time and does not incur long term results.  I have to say aggression does not equal violence.  This attack is comparable to stating that individuals who watch football are caused to be more violent towards the world due to their aggression levels.  Any football fan would know this to not be true; yes there are sometimes some fights and whatnot, but the correlation is negligible.

Weinstein took nine former ecstasy users who had been illicit substance free for at least a month and had them play video games.  While they played the video game (a racing motor bike game) they were continuously injected with an IBZM which is a radiation brain imaging substance.  They were monitored throughout the game playing.  Before they started thought they were given a baseline SPECT (brain imaging) and a second one after the game and a third after 15 mins of ending the game.  The ecstasty users were then compared to a control group that had not taken any substances throughout their lives.

What Weinstein found was  interesting.  The brain scans of the control groups became like the ecstasy users during the third SPECT scan and the dopamine receptors were activated in the usual brain reward system.  The conclusion drawn by the researcher is that there is a similar effect on the brain that video games may have when compared to individuals of illicit substances.  This is one of the only brain imaging studies out there that have taken this into consideration.  It is a fascinating study, but does have its own limitations.

1.  The IBZM was not at it’s full amount when the last brain scan was conducted therefore making the results possibly not accurate.

2. The ecstasy users were on SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) which have a major impact on the dopamine receptors of the brain.

3. There was only one female subject in each group making their conclusions not so valid.

4. The groups were very small.

5. The ecstasy users were all younger than the control group.

6.  The ecstasy users additionally had been using other illicit substances as well.

If you want the article, you can google the name of this post with Weinstein and it should pop up.

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