Statistics show video game addiction is on the rise and linked to certain mental health conditions, which can result in short and long-term consequences.
For many people, video games are a fun and enjoyable hobby, but for others, they can become a harmful habit. Video game usage becomes problematic when it impacts a person’s relationships and daily functioning. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not include video game addiction, but the World Health Organization has classified gaming disorder as a disease in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).
Online video game addiction is becoming a real problem and the topic of numerous research studies. Video game addiction statistics tend to differ, as there are no formal diagnostic criteria, symptoms or behaviors to define video game addiction. However, the facts about video game addiction show that compulsive gaming is a significant problem for many people.
Why Are Video Games Addictive?
Research has attempted to explore why video games are addictive. One reason is that video games are designed to entice players to play them. Video games must be challenging enough to keep players playing but not so challenging they cause players to give up. Some video games have no final goal or definitive end, which allows people to play them indefinitely. This design can trigger the cycle of addiction in which the players continue to seek the immediate gratification of playing the game and earning whatever reward the particular game offers.
Many addictive video games encourage people to connect electronically with each other, which can promote endless gameplay. Some video games operate on leveling and variable reward systems, where people earn skills or rewards by beating certain levels without knowing exactly when it will occur. Knowing that a big prize will come eventually and playing to reach the next level can increase their overall playing time.
Several emotional and physical warning signs of video game addiction can indicate a problem. Individuals may be consumed with thoughts about playing and show signs of impatience and agitation when unable to play. People may be dishonest about the time they spend playing video games and isolate themselves to play longer. Physical symptoms include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Lack of personal hygiene.
More than 3 billion people play video games globally, including 214 million in the U.S. The World Health Organization reports that up to 3% of people who play video games have a video game addiction.
Other gamer demographics include:
- In the U.S., 66% of the population are gamers.
- The average gamer is 35 years old.
- In the U.S., 46% of gamers are female.
- In 2021, the video game industry was valued at almost $180 billion.
- In the U.S., 51 million children play video games.
- In the U.S., 163 million adults play video games.
Video Game Addiction in Adults
More research has been conducted on video game addiction in adolescents than in adults, but studies reported statistics regarding video game addiction in adults.
- Males have higher rates of video game addiction than females.
- Single people are more likely to have video game addiction.
- Unemployment may present as a risk factor for video game addiction.
- Younger adults have more problems with video game playing.
The Rise in Gaming Addiction
The video game industry continues to grow rapidly. In 1999, the industry generated $7.4 billion in revenue, compared to $178 billion in 2021. Some reports speculate that the video game industry could make $268 billion by 2025.
Video game accessibility is also on the rise due to technological advancements. Individuals can now play video games on televisions, cell phones, desktop computers or notebook computers. This accessibility has allowed more individuals to play video games more often.
Video Game Usage Statistics
Statistics on video game usage show average video game playing time growth. One study reported that while individuals played video games for an average of 26 minutes daily in 1999, it had increased to 32 minutes daily in 2004. Another study found that by 2009, 8–18-year-olds spent an average of one hour and 13 minutes daily playing video games on consoles, handheld players and other devices.
Limelight Networks conducted a worldwide survey on video game playing in 2021. The data showed a significant increase in video game playing compared to the study conducted in 2020, with statistics collected before the COVID-19 impact. The survey reported:
- People played an average of eight hours and 27 minutes of video games per week.
- Forty-four percent of respondents played video games for at least seven days a week.
- Twenty-five percent of respondents played video games for at least 12 hours weekly.
- One-third of respondents reported playing video games for at least five consecutive hours.
- Binge gaming increased by 13%.
Most Addictive Video Games
There are many types of video games with varying levels of addictiveness. The following statistics represent the U.S. gamers who reported playing at least 20 hours per week of the listed types of video games:
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG): 21%
- Multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA): 21%
- Massively multiplayer online games (MMO): 19%
- Role-playing games: 18%
- Shooter: 16%
MMOs can be addictive because individuals can comfortably interact with numerous people in a collaborative or competitive setting. RPGs are addictive because individuals can role-play another life they may envy or desire. Some of the current most addictive video games played include:
- Fortnite: Fortnite is a shooter game where an individual plays against 99 other gamers with the goal of being the last one alive. More than 200 million people play the game.
- League of Legends: League of Legends is a multiplayer game where a team of individuals battles another group intending to destroy their “nexus” structure.
- World of Warcraft: World of Warcraft entails a person controlling an avatar to explore lands, fight monsters, conquer quests and interact with other players. In 2022, 6 million people, on average, play the game each month.
- Call of Duty: Call of Duty is a first-person shooter game set in different settings. The game’s first version was set in World War II, but more modern settings, such as the Cold War or space, have been added over the years.
- Assassin’s Creed: Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure game from the third-person perspective where individuals fight, explore and complete quests. The game has individual missions; some are competitive and cooperative games where multiple individuals can partake.
Harmful Effects of Video Game Addiction
There are several short and long-term negative effects of video game addiction. In the short term, individuals may experience disturbances to their sleeping habits, leading to fatigue, sleepiness or insomnia. They may also disrupt their eating habits, leading to skipping meals, poor nutrition and hunger. People may isolate themselves and miss socialization opportunities, potentially leading to losing friends and decreased social skills. People may also be at increased risk for seizures due to the video games’ flashing and fast-paced images. Long-term effects of video game addiction may impair a person’s academic, career or financial success.
Video Game Addiction and Co-occurring Disorders
Individuals play video games for different reasons, whether for entertainment, competition or coping mechanisms for other conditions. Video game addiction also often co-occurs with other conditions.
- Gaming and Depression: Multiple research studies have found a positive correlation between video game addiction and depression. Individuals who are depressed may isolate themselves and attempt to escape from stressors with video games.
- Gaming and Anxiety: Another linkage has been found between video games and anxiety. Some people use video games to cope with stress and anxiety, as they can escape stressors and ignore recurrent thoughts by focusing on their games. Another correlation exists between video games and social anxiety, as gaming enables people with social anxiety to connect with others without having to interact with them physically. As people become more comfortable interacting virtually, they tend to become more anxious regarding real-life interactions, causing further isolation and increased gaming. One study researched individuals who play MMORPGs and found that increased levels of social anxiety disorder were linked with those who had internet gaming disorder. The study also found that individuals with social anxiety disorder were less anxious when interacting with others through their avatars.
- Gaming and ADHD: ADHD and video game addiction are also connected. Individuals with ADHD may play excessively due to poor time management and have the ability to hyperfocus on a video game, which tends to reward brief spurts of attention. Another study found that individuals with ADHD had an elevated rate of compulsive and problematic video game usage.
- Gaming and Autism: The correlation between autism and video game addiction suggests that people with autism can become overly involved in gaming due to repetitive behaviors, resulting in inattentiveness and obsessive behaviors leading to addictive playing patterns. One study found that the average time of male children ages 8–18 with an autism spectrum diagnosis was 2.4 hours daily, and those who played role-playing games were more likely to display oppositional behaviors.
Statistics on Video Game Addiction Treatment
Video game addiction is an impulse control disorder that can be just as serious as other types of addiction. Treatment is necessary to help people overcome their dependency on video games. As video game addiction is a relatively new disorder, research is still ongoing to help develop proven treatment methods.
Video game addiction treatment is comparable to other addiction treatments. Individual and family counseling and behavior modification are the treatments of choice. Medication may be included in the treatment plan at times and if warranted. Unlike other addictions, it is difficult to remain abstinent when computers are an integral part of life for most people. Due to this, treatment may focus on controlling video games and computer use rather than completely abstaining from it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring video game addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Representatives specializing in addiction can be reached at 888.645.2072 and can help you find a treatment program that is right for you. Facilities are located across the U.S.
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