Video game addiction

This week, two articles appeared in the press. They recounted findings from studies that sought to shed more light on the possible correlations between video games and sociological problems such as addiction, obesity, violence and academic success.

The article in Technaute on the pathological dependence of video games .
The article in Le Journal de Montréal on the harmful effects of video games for academic success
In fact, more and more scientific studies are published every week and try to establish correlations between the game and various issues ranging from sexism to racism to addiction, violence, academic performance and many others. .

Nevertheless, we must keep a certain critical eye both on the results of these studies, but especially on the way in which the press reports them without qualifying their conclusion .

Indeed, the study of Dr. Douglas Gentile ( who has already retracted in the past on a similar study ) concludes that 9% of players using Wii or Kinect become addicted . While Dr. Gentile considers gaming related videos to the use of cocaine , the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the leading expert in the subject) has rejected the inclusion of video game addiction .

To support their argument, many scientists explain, with great accuracy, that the biochemistry of the brain changes playing; the brain produces dopamine during this activity, which is similar to the use of certain drugs. According to them, the addiction comes from the fact that players are always trying to produce more dopamine. On the other hand, what is often omitted is that, obviously, any activity of pleasure (like practicing a sport, eating or sex) also produces dopamine . This debate is often transformed into a debate on words as explained so well on the blog Educational Games Research .

Personally, I admit to having a serious doubt about the conclusions of Douglas Gentile’s study. Especially, taking into account that the consoles Wii and Kinect are recognized for their short games, not very immersive, with a low quality visual cachet and where the players are not used to video games and look especially novelty. That’s not to mention that physical games require more energy, so players get tired more quickly. Compared to MMORPG players like World of Warcraft (1) or other long-term competition-based games, Wii and Kinect players do not play so long. This is exactly what corroboratesNielsen’s analysis shows that the Wii is perhaps the most purchased console, but it is the least played .


Wii Bowling
Is this the new sign of addiction?

And be dependent on the pins on the Wii … me, I have a doubt. A serious doubt. Considering that 80 million people have a Wii, we have 8 million people dependent on Wii Sports?

This is how many journalists or other stakeholders mingle between different types of games, different consoles, different perceptions of players, different uses of the game, but can we blame them? It is a definitively complex world.

In fact, what I think we forget is that the game is a malleable tool , diversified and adaptable to any categorization. Any environment is playable. Any structure can turn into a game. So, what prevents games from getting rid of prejudice such as violence, sexism, addiction, etc.? The industry has counterexamples for each type of sociological problem attributed to it. We find

Of educational games to help school achievement
Of physical training games to help fight against the overweight
Of social games to fight against isolation
From casual games to accommodate those who do not have the taste to spend hours before games .

MeteorMath: a serious game to learn mathematics. I hope your child is not addicted!

I do not want to minimize the negative impact that excessive passion can have. Whatever the passion. Playing guitar, reading books, drawing, all leisure activities can turn into obsessive behavior and lead to depression and isolation.

Personally, some of my friends have spent months on unemployment playing MMORPGs. Were they dependent? Or was it a response to the free time they had? This is an excellent question that is not as easy to answer as one can think of a priori.


My background as a historian also brings me to relativize the appearance of a new cultural product. As with the emergence of photography, comics, film and television, they create an explosive mix between the “traditional” arts and the new mediums. Many (and often young people) are more easily represented by the novelty while the more traditionalists define themselves by opposing it. This is a very interesting hypothesis that I would like to analyze in greater depth, but which, at first glance, seems to me a potential explanation for the denigration that video games are currently experiencing.

And if you believe, like many others, that video games are more violent, create more dependency, and so on. because of their immersive abilities or their interactivity, you must know that we are still at an embryonic stage of immersion. Prototypes of thoughtful controls are being developed at this time . And if for you, the Kinect or the Wii is immersion in its pure state, be afraid, because in a few years, the video game addiction will be much higher than 9%!