Video games addiction remains a controversial topic both inside and outside the field of mental health, and a researcher is seeking to explain the difference between what is problematic game-playing behavior and that which is just highly enthusiastic.
"Anyone who plays games has heard about the research into video game addiction. I've read a lot of it, and I've found that there's the idea that spending lots of time playing or thinking about games makes a person addicted," said Drew Zaitsoff, a doctoral student in Indiana University's counseling psychology program. "I think it's more complicated than that."
When video games are linked to violent crime, child abuse or neglect in mainstream news reports, games addiction often is a primary topic, if not treated as a fact. In February, the creator of the mobile crazy Flappy Bird removed the game from app stores, citing games addiction as one reason.
Still, the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual of record for psychiatry, does not list video games addiction as a disorder but it does include "Internet Gaming Disorder," as a proposed disorder needing further study.
The criteria for the proposed disorder include preoccupation with playing games, the compulsion to play more to get a "buzz," failure to control gameplay time, and even withdrawal symptoms after an absence from play.
Zaitsoff, however, thinks this set of criteria could lump together both people whose lives are disrupted by constant gameplay and those for whom video games are a significant but non-disruptive part of their lives.
"I'm looking to add nuance to researchers' understanding of how gamers play their games," Zaitsoff said.
To that end, he's trying to round up at least 350 participants for the survey forming the basis of his work. The type of games they play — console or PC, hardcore or casual — doesn't matter; they only need to be 18 years old. Zaitsoff's survey may be taken here; it takes about 15 minutes to complete, and answers will be kept anonymous.
"World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Bejeweled or whatever else you play are all useful," Zaitsoff said. "and whether you play on a console, a computer or on your smartphone, I'd like to hear your honest responses to questions about your gameplay habits and mental health."