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November 4, 2010
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
It’s 4am before you realize you haven’t put down the console since
lunch. Food is a distant memory, your hands hurt and you have a vague
suspicion you were supposed to call your brother five hours ago. What
level have you reached on the video game playing scoreboard?
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average
American video gamer is 29 years old, and he spends on average 6.5
hours every week gunning down enemies or stealing cars on the
console –around an hour a day if it’s spread evenly through the week.
Do you restrict your video game sessions to an hour a day? Or do you
frequently find yourself going all-out at the weekend to beat your
score? Do you ever suspect you know more about the characters in the
games than the people who share your street, or dinner table?
How Much Does The Average Man Play Video Games?
You’ll probably remember what game first got you hooked on the habit.
Video game play usually starts in childhood. A 2007 Harris Interactive
survey found 81 percent of American kids play video games at least
once a month – that figure rises to 94 percent of American boys.
Teenage boys reported playing video games on average between 16
and 18 hours a week.
But for many men the habit never goes away. 61 percent of the 145
million video game players in America are adults, according to the
Entertainment Software Association. And 17 percent of video game
players are over 50. How much you play video games as an adult often
depends on your lifestyle – if you’ve recently lost your job you may
find the console a useful substitute for work, and long holidays can be
the chance to improve your rating. But when does harmless fun turn
into something more worrying?
Andy Murray, the British tennis star, was reportedly obsessed with
Playstation video games, spending seven hours a day playing -
presumably when he wasn’t practicing tennis. A 2003 poll from the
Pew Center for the Internet and American Life discovered one third of
college students were sneakily playing games in class. Are these people
addicted to video games? Are you addicted if you spend more than an
hour a day on the console?
Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
For some people there such a thing as video game addiction in the first
place. There is currently no formal video game addiction diagnosis,
compared to alcohol addiction, say, or addiction to drugs. The American
Psychological Association debated in 2007 whether video game
addiction should be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders. They concluded that because not enough research
and evidence had taken place, video game addiction was not a mental
But if you use the less technical definition of addiction – “any
psychological or physiological overdependence of an organism on a
drug” according to the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, video game
addiction can exist. Do you know that you’ve got a problem even when
the medical profession says you don't?
According to the 2007 Harris Interactive survey, many American
children and teenagers feel they are playing too much – 31 percent of
males said they felt addicted. Video game play is on the rise, leading to
fears of increasing addiction. Market research company NPD Group
reported hours spent on online gaming rose for the third year running
in 2010, up 10 percent. The average number of hours per week playing
online games went from 7.3 hours in 2009 up to eight hours in 2010.
Recent research claims men are more likely to become addicted to video
games than women. When you play a game, the parts of your brain
that are linked to addiction and rewarding feelings are activated.
A 2008 study from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences
Research at Stanford University, California found the more opponents
you gun down and the higher your points score rises, the more these
regions of the brain light up. Women are less likely to be triggered in
this way and although they may enjoy playing games they don’t have
the same addictive desire to win.
How Do We Compare?
Video game addiction is believed to be a particular problem in Asia, in
countries such as South Korea and China. Results of a 2006 survey
published in the Washington Post Foreign Service reported 2.4 percent
of South Koreans aged between nine and 39 were addicted to video
games and 10.2 percent were at risk of becoming addicts.
Increasing levels of addiction in Asia has led to some scary cases of
In 2007 a Chinese man died after playing online games for more than
15 days continuously, and a 30-year-old man died later in the year
after three days of video game play. In South Korea in 2005 a man died
in hospital of cardiac arrest after 50 hours of play at an Internet café.
And in 2009 the media reported a three-month-old child died from
malnutrition after her parents spent most of the day in an Internet café
taking care of a virtual child in a video game. Closer to home, in 2007
Daniel Petric from Ohio shot his parents when they took his copy of
Are You Playing Too Much?
Those are obvious signs that you should put down the console and do
something else. But what if your video game playing isn’t quite so
extreme? How do you know if you’re playing too much? Have you got a
You may be addicted to video games if you are compulsively or
excessively playing to an extent that it interferes with your everyday
life. Ask yourself some questions. Are you out of touch with day to day
events and news? Does the world of the video game mean more to you
than your real life? Do you avoid social situations and turn down
invitations because you want to play video games? Do you suffer from
disrupted sleep patterns? The chances are if you’re reading this, you
still have a life outside of the virtual world of video games. But playing
video games for so long it starts to interfere with regular eating,
sleeping and personal relationship patterns could cause problems.
Do You Have Your Video Game Habit Under Control?
Come on, we can handle it. What’s a few hours of Modern Warfare
between friends? Why should you be worried about your console
craziness? British tennis player Andy Murray, who reportedly played
video games for seven hours a day according to his ex-coach, liked
nothing more than playing Call of Duty and video tennis. He also
enjoyed hanging out with his girlfriend until she dumped him in 2009 in
part for his excessive Playstation 3 sessions. However, he was spotted
recently with ex Kim Sears, supposedly after patching up the
relationship. But guess what? He spent his week’s holiday glued to a
You might not be as lucky as Murray with your video game obsession.
According to research by UK website MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, 10
percent of relationships have ended because of one partner’s addiction
to video games and consequent neglect of the other half of the couple.
If you play video games for long periods of time you’re at greater risk
of repetitive strain injury and you may find your fingers and wrists just
do not function as well as they used to. Watch out if your love of video
games extends to smashing a few balls on the online Wii tennis court –
2010 research from the American Academy of Pediatrics claims these
interactive video games end up causing a wide range of injuries, from
cuts and sprains to ankle and foot injuries. 696 video game injuries
were reported between 2004 and 2009. Traditional video games also
showed up as causing injuries to players. Giving video games all of the
potential for sporting injuries and none (or at least less) of the
potential for increasing your fitness.
What Can You Do If You Play Too Many Video Games?
In 2005, as a means of curbing a rising online game addiction, China
slapped gaming restrictions on users, limiting them to three hours of
game play. In 2006 China eased restrictions so only under-18s would
be limited. After 2007, Chinese game players found the powers of their
online characters limited if they stayed playing for more than three
hours, ending up with hardly any power at all after five hours.
Maybe you don’t need to go this far. Get your game playing in
If the only light you see is that of the TV or computer screen, and you
are worried about your health, you should seek help. Online Gamers
Anonymous was set up in 2002 to “provide a 12-step support network
for gaming addicts,” and many other clinics across the world offer
support to video game and online game players who are suffering from
addiction. But if you play occasionally and have an active life outside of
the virtual world, there’s little harm in a few hours at the control pad.
Where Do You Rank? Average Hours of Video Games Per Week in
Average American Man
6.5 hours a week (Entertainment Software Association)
Average Online Adult Gamer
8 hours a week (NPD Group 2010)
U.S. Kids aged 8 to 12
13 hours a week (Harris Interactive survey 2007)
U.S. Kids aged 13 to 18
14 hours a week (Harris Interactive survey 2007)
U.S Teenage Boys
Between 16 hours and 18 hours a week (Harris Interactive survey
World Record For Longest Time Spent Playing a Video Game
55 hours (David Scherer, Tennessee. Guinness World Record)
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