Iowa Uni Study: “Pathological Gaming” Linked To Childhood Mental Health Problems

Lewis Denby January 17, 2011 - 2:02 pm

A new study at Iowa State university claims to show “signs of causality” between “pathological gaming” and mental health problems in children. But the Entertainment Software Association has already called the study “flawed”, even before its publication in the Pediatrics journal shortly.

The ESA took issue with the study’s methodology, and claimed that the lead researcher, Dr. Douglas Gentile, has a “long anti-video game history.”

Gentile surveyed over 3,000 young gamers in Singapore, and isolated those he thought to be “pathological gamers” – those whose regular lengthy gaming sessions could be seen as problematic. To determine this, he adapted a known test to determine pathological gamblers, asking the children how much they felt gaming affected other areas of their lives.

“When you play the games, your biochemistry does change,” Gentile told Gamespot, “and it changes in many of the same ways that it does if you take cocaine. Your brain does release dopamine. That adrenaline rush you feel from playing violent games is really adrenaline. That’s epinephrine coursing through your veins. You also get other stress hormones—glocucorticoids and catecholamines like cortisol and testosterone. And over time, you get desensitized. You get a tolerance for them, and so you need more new games to get that excitement back again. And that looks an awful lot like a substance addiction.”

Gentile isn’t the first person to liken gaming to cocaine use. Prolific nonsense merchant Steve Pope was more specific about how much cocaine, though: one line for every two hours of gaming.

The results of the study show hints of causality, said Dr. Gentile. But he’s not outright claiming that the games definitely caused the mental health problems.

“We’ve got hints of causality because we know that something happened before something else,” Gentile said, “but that doesn’t mean we know what caused it.”

Gentile dismissed the ESA’s claim of flawed research, saying that while all studies have limitations, and that his own is no exception, the trade body was simply looking out for its own interests.

He also claimed that his supposed “anti-video game” stance had all been a misunderstanding: his issue is not with the games, he said, but with the psychology of their players: it’s the problem gamers who need to change, not the games.

I’ll be interested to try to have a read when the paper is published.

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Lewis Denby

Lewis is BeefJack's executive producer. He manages projects, oversees new initiatives and looks after budgets. Back in the day, he used to write about games; if he's good, we still let him sometimes. View all posts by Lewis Denby →

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Comments (1)

  1. Avatar of Tren

    Oh for crying out loud, when you exercise/work out your body goes through a lot of the same things as well. When you’re nervous or you panic the body goes through a lot of the same things. Make sure to never be upset or stressed out, the body has been known to change your body very similar to ways that they describe in their “study” It’s how the body handles things.

    So should people stop working out too? Try to never be nervous again, even though it’s something natural that occurs with the body? What he talked about may be some what truth but, honestly it applies to a lot of thing in life: taking tests, being nervous, being upset, etc. Even when someone is reading a book, if done well and the reader is attached to what is going on in the book, can go through those same things as well. Anything that gets your body going and body chemicals doing different things based on what you are doing the body will react.

    I vote for these people that want to do one sided BS studies to use their brain and come at it with something more solid then “it’s possible” yeah well so are a lot of things in life. It’s about time these people doing such studies put more thought into it then to continue providing one sided, flawed information to the public.

    In terms of it being flawed, that’s 100% right on. They are usually flawed because it’s not looked at from all angles, it’s from a one sided point of view (nothing more then someone’s personal opinion backed up with findings they orchestrated to make sure they get) and, not everyone is part of the study, therefore results are flawed, not complete and gives very little understanding as it’s tested on a select group of individuals.

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