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'Gaming Addiction' Is A Result Of External Issues, Not Gaming Itself, Study Finds

'Gaming Addiction' Is A Result Of External Issues, Not Gaming Itself, Study Finds

There's no evidence to suggest an "unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, and behavioural problems."

Ewan Moore

Ewan Moore

Following the World Health Organization's decision back in May to officially classify "Gaming Disorder" as a recognised illness, we've seen a whole lot of fuss being made over the idea of video game addiction in children and what we can do to treat it.

Certain corners have been emboldened by the classification, and now we're starting to see arguments that certain developers - such as Epic Games - are purposefully working to make games like Fortnite as addictive as possible. One potential class-action lawsuit against the battle royale has gone so far as to compare the game to tobacco.

Fortnite /
Epic Games

However, a new study published by Oxford University (via Nintendolife) has suggested that there's not enough evidence to claim that gaming itself is the cause of gaming addiction, and shouldn't be classed as a medical disorder. It reasons that gamers who display symptoms of "Gaming Disorder" are likely to be suffering from external issues unrelated to gaming itself.

The study is another direct response to WHO's controversial decision, which has already drawn plenty of criticism from various Entertainment Associations from across the globe, including the US, Canada, South Korea, Australia, and the UK, who came together to criticise the move, warning of "far reaching and unintended consequences" that could be affect those who genuinely need help.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the study suggests that "those engaged in dysfunctional gaming are likely to have underlying frustrations and wider psycho-social functioning issues outside of games."

The study goes on to reason that, if anything, gaming serves as a relief to those external issues in certain cases. In other words, gaming is rarely the problem, it seems.


"Our findings provided no evidence suggesting an unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, peer and behavioural problems," Przybylski said.

"Instead, variations in gaming experience are much more likely to be linked to whether adolescents' basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social belonging are being met and if they are already experiencing wider functioning issues. In light of our findings we do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right."

Dr Netta Weinstein, Senior Lecturer at the University of Cardiff's School of Psychology and co-author of the report added, "We urge healthcare professionals to look more closely at the underlying factors such as psychological satisfactions and everyday frustrations to understand why a minority of players feel like they must engage in gaming in an obsessive way."

Apex Legends
Apex Legends

These findings come weeks after it was announced here in the UK that GPs and other health professionals will now be able to refer those aged between 13 - 25 who may be displaying symptoms of "Gaming Disorder" for specialised treatment in an attempt to rid young gamers of their alleged addiction.

For its part, WHO previously argued that its classification was based on "reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development."

Featured Image Credit: Naughty Dog/Rockstar