The Stages of a Gaming Addiction

The Stages of a Gaming Addiction



A list of ‘possible’ stages


As far as addictions go, not much is yet known about gaming addiction as a disorder.  Subsequently, there is not yet an agreed-upon list of the stages of the condition.   Furthermore,  each person differs in personality as well as in the games they might be addicted to.   Any 'list' about the stages of a gaming addiction should be considered only a rough guide.  


One should also remember that gaming will not always evolve into an addiction despite all the scary stories out there.   It can also be harmless and, for some, an enjoyable way to relax and make friends online.


Before we look at gaming addiction stages, we should first recap what qualifies as gaming addiction.    If behavior fulfills the following criteria, one can safely say there could be an underlying addiction problem.  


The criteria for a gaming addiction


  • The most important activity:If video game play dominates thinking, feelings and behavior, one can say it is an addiction.    For instance, some gamers report that they are constantly thinking about the next time they can get to their game.  


  • Spending more and more time in play:   It is a process.   People gradually build up the time they spend with their game.   When play is suddenly discontinued, the person might feel moody or irritable.


  • Different types of conflict:   Three types of conflict manifest over time.   It is interpersonal conflict(conflict with those around you), physical separation from ordinary life (not doing your job, skipping school, not having a social life or other hobbies anymore), and subjective feelings of losing control (you know you are spending too much time playing.)


  • You can’t help yourself: Even if you try to stay away from game playing, you relapse and soon find yourself excessively playing on the same level as before.  


Interestingly, the literature describes video game playing addiction as a ‘nonfinancial’ form of excessive gambling.  It shares many of the same similarities and emotions.


However, there are some problems in defining non-chemical addictions, such as video game addiction.   


  • How does one measure ‘severity’?
  • Chronological 'stages' are not clear-cut.
  • Researchers tend to over-estimate the prevalence of a gaming problem
  • The context of video game use is often not considered.  
  • There are also some concerns about the current sampling methods.


As a consequence, researchers are still arguing if video game addiction exists.   Perhaps it is only problematic to a small group of people, such as adolescents, they say. More long-term research with validated survey instruments, as well as qualitative interviews, are required.


That said, there are some indictations of the stages of a gaming addiction.


Stages of a gaming addiction

There are three general phases in gaming addiction.   Each phase steps up in severity, but it is also important to remember that not all addicts will necessarily go through all the stages.


  1. Stage 1 – Impaired control


In the first stage, a persistent type of behavior surfaces. First, the enjoyment and perhaps fascination with games start developing. Then, the person begins playing frequently and for longer. Finally, he or she might find it hard to stop playing.


  1. Stage 2 – Increasing priority to gaming


The gamer starts neglecting other life interests and daily activities.   Most of the person's free time is taken up with gaming.


  1. Stage 3 – Escalation


Gaming becomes the person’s sole interest.   Even though the person realizes that this much excessive gaming is not good for him, he keeps on playing, often at a cost to others in his life.   The behavior should be evident over at least 12 months, although the period can be shorter if the symptoms are severe.




High involvement vs. problematic involvement


Experts say that one cannot only count the number of hours someone is playing games.   A high involvement does not necessarily lead to addiction.  Gaming can be your main hobby, and you can handle it in a totally controlled way without negative consequences to your life.  


Perhaps the main thing to keep in mind is the loss of control.   


The person can not play when he planned to play. It must be earlier.   And when he plays, he plays much longer than he intended to.  Sleep deprivation might also be a red flag indicator.   If someone continuously loses sleep over video games, the chances are that things are not right.


This blog is the second in our series about gaming addiction.   From this blog, it is clear that the topic is not straightforward and that there are various aspects to consider.  In our next blog, we will look at the three most addictive games around today.   


Largest Heart aims to provide you with resources that can help – please find our resource page elsewhere on this site for more information.