Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is a proposed condition that refers to persistent gaming leading to clinically significant impairment. However, there have been few attempts to study the different types and degrees of harm caused by IGD. This commentary describes some of the negative intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of an extreme time investment in gaming activities in the context of IGD. Future research should examine the way in which IGD harms may occur at different levels and degrees. This may enhance the screening of individuals whose behavior is suspected to meet the definition of the proposed IGD criteria.
Previous studies have reported that stronger avatar identification and negative self-concept are associated with gaming disorder (GD). This study aimed to examine the value and significance of avatars based on firsthand accounts from regular and problematic gamers, and to identify any potential links between avatar-related experiences and excessive gaming.
An online survey of 993 adult gamers yielded 3,972 text responses. Qualitative analysis of 59,059 words extracted 10 categories of avatar-related perspectives.
Some problem and non-problem gamers employed sentimental language (e.g., ‘dear friend’, ‘like a child’, ‘part of my soul’) to refer to their avatar. However, most participants perceived avatars as a means of achieving in-game goals and enabling greater interactivity (e.g., socializing). When asked to reflect on hypothetically losing their avatar, participants generally anticipated feeling temporary frustration or annoyance due to lost time and effort invested into the avatar. Although some participants reported that their avatar ‘mattered’, avatars were often considered as superficial (‘just pixels’) and peripheral to the primary reinforcement of achieving in-game rewards and objectives. Some broader psychological and identity issues such as gender dysphoria, rather than ‘addiction’, were cited as motivating persistent avatar-related interactions and attachment.
Discussion and conclusions
Participants reported diverse views on the psychological value and function of avatars, but the relationship between avatars and problematic gaming or GD was largely unclear or inconsistent, and refuted by some participants. Future research with clinical samples may lead to a better understanding of player-avatar processes, including whether avatar-stimuli facilitate the development of maladaptive gaming habits, particularly among psychologically vulnerable players. Future investigations should be mindful of ‘overpathologizing’ avatar-related phenomena and recognize their important role in socializing, storytelling, and creative expression among gamers.
To review the conceptual and empirical relationship between gambling, investing, and speculation.
An analysis of the attributes differentiating these constructs as well as identification of all articles speaking to their empirical relationship.
Gambling differs from investment on many different attributes and should be seen as conceptually distinct. On the other hand, speculation is conceptually intermediate between gambling and investment, with a few of its attributes being investment-like, some of its attributes being gambling-like, and several of its attributes being neither clearly gambling or investment-like. Empirically, gamblers, investors, and speculators have similar cognitive, motivational, and personality attributes, with this relationship being particularly strong for gambling and speculation. Population levels of gambling activity also tend to be correlated with population level of financial speculation. At an individual level, speculation has a particularly strong empirical relationship to gambling, as speculators appear to be heavily involved in traditional forms of gambling and problematic speculation is strongly correlated with problematic gambling.
Discussion and conclusions
Investment is distinct from gambling, but speculation and gambling have conceptual overlap and a strong empirical relationship. It is recommended that financial speculation be routinely included when assessing gambling involvement, and there needs to be greater recognition and study of financial speculation as both a contributor to problem gambling as well as an additional form of behavioral addiction in its own right.
Familial influences are known to affect the likelihood of an adolescent becoming a problem gamer. This systematic review examined some of the key findings in empirical research on family factors related to adolescent problem gaming.
A total of 14 studies in the past decade were evaluated. Family-related variables included: (a) parent status (e.g., socioeconomic status and mental health), (b) parent–child relationship (e.g., warmth, conflict, and abuse), (c) parental influence on gaming (e.g., supervision of gaming, modeling, and attitudes toward gaming), and (d) family environment (e.g., household composition).
The majority of studies have focused on parent–child relationships, reporting that poorer quality relationships are associated with increased severity of problem gaming. The paternal relationship may be protective against problem gaming; therefore, prevention programs should leverage the support of cooperative fathers.
The intergenerational effects of problem gaming require further attention, in light of adult gamers raising their children in a gaming-centric environment. Research has been limited by a reliance on adolescent self-report to understand family dynamics, without gathering corroborating information from parents and other family members. The very high rates of problem gaming (>10%) reported in general population samples raise concerns about the validity of current screening tools.
Interventions for adolescents may be more effective in some cases if they can address familial influences on problem gaming with the active co-participation of parents, rather than enrolling vulnerable adolescents in individual-based training or temporarily isolating adolescents from the family system.
The criterion of tolerance in DSM-5 Internet gaming disorder (IGD) refers to a need for increasing time spent gaming. However, this focus on “need for gaming time” may overlook some of the broader motivations, outcomes, or effects of gaming that underlie excessive play. This study aimed to explore regular and problematic gamers’ experiences and perceptions of tolerance in IGD.
An online survey of 630 adult gamers yielded 1,417 text responses to open-ended questions. A thematic analysis of 23,373 words was conducted to extract dominant themes.
Participants reported that they increasingly desired game items, status, or story progress as they became more involved or invested in games. As players develop higher standards of play in games, an increasing number of potential reward outcomes may have diminishing mood-modifying effects. None of the participants, including those with self-reported IGD, explicitly referred to a need for increasing time spent gaming.
Discussion and conclusions
These results suggest that players may be motivated by preferences for specific goals or reinforcers in games rather than wanting an amount of time spent gaming. Thus, problematic gaming may involve a need for completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out. Further research is needed to determine whether these cognitive and motivational factors related to gaming stimuli should extend or replace the concept of tolerance in IGD or be considered as separate but related processes in disordered gaming.
Critics of gaming disorder (GD; i.e., Internet gaming disorder in the DSM-5; Gaming disorder in the ICD-11) have expressed concerns about the potential risks of misclassification (e.g., false positives). An important consideration of relevance to this discussion is the extent to which commonly used screening instruments contain appropriate, sensible, and relevant items. The aim of this review was to evaluate the face validity of items within current tools for GD.
A systematic review of databases identified 29 instruments. An item bank (n = 417 items) was independently evaluated by three professional raters (i.e., a senior academic in clinical psychology, a senior psychometrician, and an academic/clinical psychologist) according to guidelines for defining and measuring addiction and gaming disorder.
Evaluation of the item bank identified issues related to: scope (i.e., “scope creep” or items of questionable relevance); language (i.e., confusing language, unusual wording or syntax); and overpathologizing (i.e., pathologizing typical and/or beneficial aspects or consequences of gaming). A total of 71 items across 23 tools had at least one face validity issue.
Most items (83%) demonstrated satisfactory face validity and were consistent with either the DSM-5 or ICD-11 GD classification. However, many tests contain at least one item that may pathologize normal gaming behaviors. Such items refer to basic changes in mood when gaming, a desire to play or continue playing games, and experiencing immersion when gaming. This analysis highlights the challenges of screening for problematic behaviors that are thought to arise within the context of normal recreational activities.
Social casino games (SCGs) are not technically considered a form of gambling but they do enable players to spend money in a game that is gambling themed or structurally approximate to gambling. It has been theorized that SCGs could be a gateway to gambling activities or otherwise normalize the experience of gambling for young people, particularly when money becomes involved. The aim of this study was to investigate whether adolescents’ financial expenditure in SCGs was associated with broader gambling activity, including level of participation, expenditure, and problem gambling symptoms.
An online survey was administered to 555 adolescents, including 130 SCG players (78 non-paying and 52 paying users).
Paying SCG users tended to be employed males who play more frequently and engage in more SCG activities, who report more symptoms of problem gambling and higher psychological distress than non-paying SCG users. Paying SCG users reported more frequent engagement and spending in monetary gambling activities, and two-thirds of SCG payers recalled that their SCG use had preceded involvement in financial gambling.
Discussion and conclusions
Spending in simulated gambling activities by adolescents may be a risk factor for problem gambling. Although SCGs may currently defy classification as a form of gambling, these activities will likely continue to be scrutinized by regulators for the use of dubious or exploitative payment features offered in a gambling-themed format that is available to persons of all ages.
Gambling and gaming activities have become increasingly recognised as sharing many common features at a structural and aesthetic level. Both have also been implicated as contributing to harm through excessive involvement. Despite this, relatively little attention has been given to the fundamental characteristics that differentiate these two classes of activity, especially in situations where the boundaries between them may be particularly hard to distinguish. This is evident, for example, in digital games that incorporate free and paid virtual currencies or items, as well as the capacity for wagering. Such overlaps create problems for regulatory classifications, screening, diagnosis and treatment. Is the problem related to the gambling or gaming content?
In this paper, we review the principal sources of overlap between the activity classes in terms of several dimensions: interactivity, monetisation, betting and wagering, types of outcomes, structural fidelity, context and centrality of content, and advertising.
We argue that gaming is principally defined by its interactivity, skill-based play, and contextual indicators of progression and success. In contrast, gambling is defined by betting and wagering mechanics, predominantly chance-determined outcomes, and monetisation features that involve risk and payout to the player. A checklist measure is provided, with practical examples, to examine activities according to features of design and function, which may inform guidelines for policy makers, researchers and treatment providers.
Discussion and conclusions
We suggest that, in some instances, using category-based nomenclature (e.g., “gambling-like game”) may be too vague or cumbersome to adequately organise our understanding of new gaming/gambling hybrid activities.
Stay-at-home mandates and quarantines related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have led to greatly increased participation in online gaming. Initiatives such as #PlayApartTogether that promote gaming for socializing and stress reduction may achieve positive outcomes. Although gaming can be a healthy coping strategy for the majority, it can also pose risks to some vulnerable individuals. Protracted periods of social isolation and technology-based activity pose the danger of solidifying unhealthy lifestyle patterns, leading to difficulties to readaptation when the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Balanced and effective approaches to gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic are needed to support physical and psychological wellbeing.
This article suggests that the type of Internet-enabled device should not be prioritised when conceptualizing diagnostic categories of addictive online behaviours. The diagnostic distinction between “predominantly mobile” and “predominantly non-mobile” forms of Internet use disorders (IUD) is not empirically based, may not be clinically useful and may lead to “diagnostic inflation.” Problems with the concepts of smartphone use disorder and IUD on which the proposed distinction is largely based call for their re-examination. Future proposals for the taxonomy of addictive behaviours may not need to be based on online/offline and mobile/non-mobile dichotomies.