Game over: When video games become a problem

“Although kids tend to get many of the headlines when it comes to addiction concerns, young adult males are the ones who are often experiencing the negative impact of their gaming – failing in college and struggling with employment,” says Cam AdairDerek Heisler

Video game addiction is real and mental health professionals are not prepared for the tsunami that is fast approaching. On March 18, Cam Adair, a leading expert on video game addiction, will share his personal journey of overcoming his addiction to the gaming world while offering key insights into how gaming is designed to not only keep you playing, but increasingly to keep you spending money. He takes an evidence-informed approach to help you identify those at-risk, how to communicate effectively with patients, and what the practical strategies are to help them succeed in recovery.

Co-sponsored by McGill Faculty of Education’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Agence Ometz, the lecture will take place on March 18, Shaare Zion Congregation, 5575 Côte St. Luc Road. The lecture is free but registration is required. Get more information and register online.

In advance of the lecture, Adair spoke to the McGill Reporter about the ever-growing problem of video game addiction. 

How big a problem is gaming today?

Video game addiction is a global phenomenon impacting the lives of millions of people. There are currently over 2 billion active gamers worldwide and high-quality studies find prevalence rates of gaming disorder to be between 1-3 per cent of gamers. Over 75,000 people actively search for help on every month.

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Are there age and gender differences associated with a gaming disorder?

Although gamers tend to be an equal mix of genders, with 54 per cent of gamers male and 46 per cent of gamers female, those who struggle with gaming disorder tend to be male. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old but teens and young adults (18-25 years old) are the ones most at-risk of developing problems. Although kids tend to get many of the headlines when it comes to addiction concerns, young adult males are the ones who are often experiencing the negative impact of their gaming – failing in college and struggling with employment.

What are the warning signs parents should be aware of concerning a gaming addiction?

The warning signs parents should be aware of concerning gaming disorder are:

  1. Being irritable or moody when they can’t play
  2. Constantly needing to play more and more (“it’s never enough”)
  3. Losing interest in other activities (e.g. sports, exercise)
  4. Being deceptive (e.g. stealing money to buy things in game)
  5. Jeopardizing school, work, and/or relationships (in order to game)

It’s important for parents to discern between what is passionate play and what is disordered play. The difference between the two is functional impairment – if a gamer is playing to the detriment of their school, work, or family life… if they are unable to fulfill basic functions of life like showering, eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom, yet they continue to play more and more, then you should seek help.

What should I do if I suspect if my child, spouse, or friend has a gaming addiction?

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First, they should educate themselves on gaming disorder as much as possible. This is a complex issue that requires education to build an effective plan. Game Quitters is one resource for that, as is Families Managing Media.

Next, they need to commit to their own self-care plan. As parents they can only help their kids as much as they are able to take care of themselves. This process is deeply emotional, especially when it comes to setting boundaries, and being able to remain grounded in themselves and their values as parents will serve them well.

Finally, join a support group. They are not alone and it’s easy for parents to be isolated due to the shame and stigma of feeling like a bad parent. We have a free parent support group on Facebook, and other options include OLGANON and CGAA are others.

Cam Adair is an international speaker and entrepreneur who is considered a leading expert on video game addiction. He is best known as the founder of Game Quitters, a support community for gamers from 95 countries. His work has been published in Psychiatry Research and been featured in New York Times Magazine, Forbes, BBC, NPR, CNN and more. In 2017, he was named one of Canada’s Leaders in Mental Health. 



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