Gaming might be as addictive as drugs, study finds


Though recent findings suggest video gaming might be addictive, several of those involved with USC’s video game program said the issue probably affects a minority of gamers.

Don’t hate the player · The USC Gamers Network hosted an eight-hour video game tournament, USC’s largest ever, in The Forum of the campus center in September. - Anna Wierzbowska | Daily Trojan

 

A study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry on Tuesday showed frequent video game players display a structural change in their brain similar to that observed in gambling addicts. The study, headed by Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium, found 14-year-olds who play video games frequently have more gray matter in their striatum, a part of the brain associated with rewarding feelings.

The study suggests that video gaming addiction could be similar to that of narcotics, though further research is needed.

Many of those at USC involved with video games, however, said they feel studies like these represent a specific minority.

Sanjay Madhav, who teaches video game programming courses in the information technology program, said he is skeptical of the purported addictive qualities of video games. He likened video games to any other number of distractions that students occupy themselves with.

“In general, these sorts of studies can be misleading,” Madhav said. “Gaming is just one of a plethora of recreational activities that can become addicting for a small few. I wouldn’t be surprised if a study on people addicted to fantasy football shows that the brain response is similar.”

Students involved in the gaming scene at USC echoed Madhav’s opinions on the addictiveness of gaming. Mark Platzer, a junior majoring in music industry, and Graham Hawes, a sophomore majoring in computer science with an emphasis on games, are members of USC eSports, a group dedicated to competitive video game playing.

Platzer said he firmly believes student-gamers, especially those at USC, do not let gaming take over their lives completely.

“Even the most hardcore of gamers I know will put their work before their games if it’s an important enough project,” Platzer said. “It’s more the traditional social life that gets overshadowed by games.”

Hawes said he believes gaming is a lot of fun, but that fun should not be confused as an addictive quality.

“I don’t think the medium itself is more dangerous in terms of addiction when you compare it to things we consider addictive right now, like drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes,” Hawes said. “Especially when you consider the side-effects of those things.”

Josh Durica, a junior majoring in computer science, said he could see video gaming as potentially addictive.

“It’s definitely possible to spend too much time on video games, just like it’s possible to spend too much time on anything else,” Durica said. “It’s possible to not want to do any other work because you like gaming so much. There’s definitely potential in getting caught up in playing too many games.”

  • Sure, everyone loves to gamble . . . if they win. But, the person sitting next to you in church, the man in line at the grocery store, or one of your co-workers; any one of these could be involved with a gambling problem. Imagine your grandmother committing a crime to support her gambling addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, gambler, and have recovered from other addictive behaviors. I published a book, Gripped by Gambling, where the readers can follow the destructive path of the compulsive gambler, a prison sentence, and then on to the recovery road.

    I recently published a second book, Switching Addictions, describing additional issues that confront the recovering addict. If a person who has an addictive personality, doesn’t admit to at least two addictions, he’s not being honest. These are two books you might consider adding to your library. I also publish a free online newsletter, Women Helping Women, which has been on-line for more than ten years and is read by hundreds of women (and men) from around the world. (www.femalegamblers.info). I have been interviewed many times, and appeared on the 60 Minutes show in January 2011, which was moderated by Leslie Stahl.

    Sincerely,

    Marilyn Lancelot