42. The Dangers of Excessive Video Gaming and the Tests Used to Identify Cases of Video Gaming Addiction

Candy Crush. Flappy Bird. Pokemon Go. Fruit Ninja. Minecraft. Call of Duty.

Almost everyone with a smartphone or computer has played one of these video games. It's easy to get caught up in the bright colors, cutesy characters, and the satisfaction you feel when you finally complete a difficult level or quest. So you keep playing, and playing, and playing. But at what point does it become addictive or harmful?

Excessive video gaming can cause addiction to video games, health problems, and stunted social skills.

Gaming becomes an addiction when it starts to interfere with a person's relationships or their daily activities. Although some say that video gaming addiction is not a real disorder, research shows that 3% of all gamers experience symptoms associated with excessive video game use that are similar to addiction symptoms in gamblers, and drug addicts. Video gaming addiction can be detrimental to a gamer's health and mental growth when gamers are so absorbed into their game, that they forget to eat, sleep, or socialize. In extreme cases, gamers use video games to escape from their own lives and fail to develop the social skills needed to interact with others.

Below is a pie chart created from data gathered with a Behavioral Addiction Measure-Video Gaming (BAM-VG) test on video gamers of varying ages and ethnicities. As can be seen, slightly less than half of the sample size (506 adults, ages 18-88) play more than 8 hours of video games per week, while a small percentage play more than 21 hours per week.

It can also be seen in this graph that many people are spending excessive hours playing video games. This is concerning, because although not every tested person who plays more than 8 hours of video games per week is an addictive video gamer, those that do might be showing the symptoms of video game addiction.

Many different tests were created to assess level of video game addiction, but few provided accurate results.

To find and help those who are addicted to video games, many tests to asses problematic video game use were developed. These tests include the Internet addiction Test (IAT) by Dr. Kimberly Young, and a survey published by a research study at the Iowa State University.

However, many of these tests could not correctly identify people with video game addiction. This is because there were multiple problems associated with these other tests. For example, they did not provide the same results when the same person took it multiple times, predicted video gaming addiction symptoms when there were none, and placed emphasis on incorrect predictors of addiction (did not focus on the more telling symptoms of addictive behavior). As a result, these tests are ineffective and do not help to identify cases of video game addiction.

Tests need to be both reliable and valid to be useful in identifying various cases of addiction.

So what would make video game addiction tests useful? In these types of assessments, two factors are extremely important. Any test that lacks both would not be able to accurately answer the question, "Do you have video gaming addiction?" and would instead give false answers. Those two factors are reliability and validity.

Reliability is defined as how consistent a test is in it's prediction of video game addiction in subjects. For example, the test is reliable if a subject takes the test more than once, and receives the same result every time. On the other hand, validity is defined as how accurate the test is. The assessment would not be valid if the results of the test claimed that a subject has video game addiction if the subject rarely plays any video games.

BAM-VG can be used to accurately reveal cases of addiction even in gamers who are in denial. 

One test that has been shown to be useful and accurate is the Behavioral Addiction Measure-Video Gaming (BAM-VG) test. The BAM-VG consists if 19 yes/no questions regarding the participants' involvement in and the consequences of their involvement in video games during the past 12 months. Depending on their responses and their matches with addiction symptoms, the BAM-VG identifies cases of video game addiction. It is an adaption of the Problem and Pathological Gambling Measure (PPGM) that was developed in a gambling context for similar reasons.

Similar to the PPGM, the BAM-VG requires a person to report potential problems in their life that may have been related to having problematic levels of video gaming, such those related to relationships, work, or finance. Since some people may be in denial about their addiction to video games, the test also allows third parties to identify video game addiction problems that a person may have.

James L. Sanders and Robert J. Williams published a study in 2015 proving that the results of the BAM-VG were highly reliable and valid. This is because they found that the test consistently and accurately predicted video game addition in a group of 506 adults that varied in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and employment status. As a result, the BAM-VG is better to use compared to the other video gaming addiction tests because it is better able to identify cases of video game addiction.

Oftentimes, people with video gaming addiction don't realize that they have a problem. If they refuse to admit it, or are unwilling to change their behaviors, then it is very difficult for that person to receive help. A working test such as the BAM-VG that has been shown to be both reliable and valid can help to convince a video game addict to seek help and to admit that a problem exists.

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