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  • 1 IVO Addiction Research Institute, Heemraadssingel 194, 3021 DM, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2 Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • 3 Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK
  • 4 International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
  • 5 Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, University of Ulster, Londonderry, UK
  • 6 MRC All-Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research, University of Ulster, Londonderry, UK
  • 7 Department of Health Promotion, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Open access

Abstract

Aims

The current study explored the nature of problematic (addictive) video gaming (PVG) and the association with game type, psychosocial health, and substance use.

Methods

Data were collected using a paper and pencil survey in the classroom setting. Three samples were aggregated to achieve a total sample of 8478 unique adolescents. Scales included measures of game use, game type, the Video game Addiction Test (VAT), depressive mood, negative self-esteem, loneliness, social anxiety, education performance, and use of cannabis, alcohol and nicotine (smoking).

Results

Findings confirmed problematic gaming is most common amongst adolescent gamers who play multiplayer online games. Boys (60%) were more likely to play online games than girls (14%) and problematic gamers were more likely to be boys (5%) than girls (1%). High problematic gamers showed higher scores on depressive mood, loneliness, social anxiety, negative self-esteem, and self-reported lower school performance. Nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis using boys were almost twice more likely to report high PVG than non-users.

Conclusions

It appears that online gaming in general is not necessarily associated with problems. However, problematic gamers do seem to play online games more often, and a small subgroup of gamers — specifically boys — showed lower psychosocial functioning and lower grades. Moreover, associations with alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis use are found. It would appear that problematic gaming is an undesirable problem for a small subgroup of gamers. The findings encourage further exploration of the role of psychoactive substance use in problematic gaming.

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Including gaming disorder in the ICD-11: The need to do so from a clinical and public health perspective

Commentary on: A weak scientific basis for gaming disorder: Let us err on the side of caution (van Rooij et al., 2018)