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Why is video gaming addictive and what are the core charateristics of addiction?

Video gaming is addictive because gamers receive multiple types of reinforcement.


  • The rewards are intrinsic- rewards are enjoyable in and of themselves (e.g. improving your highest score).
  • The rewards are extrinsic- the rewards for playing come from external sources (e.g. peer admiration).
  • The reinforcement is intermittent, meaning gamers keep responding in the absence of reinforcement hoping that another reward is around the corner.
  • Video games allow gamers to socialize with other players through online connections.
  • Higher levels may reveal hidden rewards and allow players to acquire new skills.

What are some of the core characteristics of video game addiction?

Some of the core characteristics of video game addiction include:

  • Salience or Importance- (the activity dominates the person’s life at the expense of academic and/or occupational functioning and spending time in meaningful relationships with family and friends)
  • Euphoria/relief- (engaging in game playing provides a relief from unpleasant feelings)
  • Tolerance- (greater time is needed playing the game to achieve the same relief from unpleasant feelings)
  • Withdrawal symptoms- (the experience of unpleasant physical effects or negative emotions when able to engage in gaming)
  • Conflict- (gaming leads to conflict with others, work, obligations, or self)
  • Relapse and reinstatement- (the activity is continued despite attempts to abstain)

Source: Grusser, S.M., Thalemann, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Excessive computer game Playing: Evidence for addiction and aggression? Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 10, 280-292; Wood, R.T.A., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, A. (2007). Experiences of time loss among videogame players: An empirical study. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 10, 45-56.