Video game addiction: An unpublished interview (Part 1)

A few months ago I was interviewed by a video game industry insider. For reasons unbeknown to me, the interview was never published so I thought this might be an opportune moment to publish the unedited transcript over three parts.

Interviewer: The focus of your work is mainly behavioural addiction, could you start by giving a brief overview of what behavoural addiction is?

Mark Griffiths: Behavioural addictions are those addictions that do not involve the ingestion of a psychoactive substance such as alcohol, nicotine or heroin. Some people believe that a person cannot become addicted to something in the absence of a psychoactive agent, but it is my passionate belief that people can (and do) become addicted to non-chemical behaviours. I have written a number of papers over the last 20 years that have tried to show that some behaviours when taken to excess (e.g., gambling, video gaming) are no different from (say) alcoholism or heroin addiction in terms of the core components of addiction (e.g. salience, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, relapse etc.). If it can be shown that a behaviour like pathological gambling can be a bona fide addiction (and I believe that it can), then there is a precedent that any behaviour that provides continuous rewards (in the absence of a psychoactive substance) can be potentially addictive. Such a precedent ‘opens the floodgates’ for other excessive behaviours to be considered theoretically as potential addictions (e.g. exercise, sex, eating, computer games, the internet) which is what I’ve been examining in some of my research.

Interviewer: Whilst most of your work is around gambling addictions, you also do work on videogames and internet addiction. What drew you to this area of research?

Mark Griffiths: I suppose the ‘classic’ behavioural addiction is gambling, and it was this type of behavioural addiction that fuelled my interest in other forms of non-chemical addiction such as videogame addiction. Many people might think it’s obvious why a psychologist would be interested in studying behavioural addictions such as videogame addiction. It’s a ‘sexy’ subject, it’s media-friendly, the general public find it interesting, and almost everybody from all walks of life has some kind of view on it, whether it’s rooted in personal experience or in a finely argued theoretical perspective. However, my own interest came about somewhat accidentally.

Like a lot of people, my main research interests developed over time and were not pre-planned. It was during my PhD (1987-1990) that I began to see excessive slot machine playing as theoretically no different from chemically-based drug addictions. Although I am still very much involved in the psychology of gambling, it is the theoretical basis of my work on gambling addiction that inspired me to take a more thorough look at other excessive behaviours such as internet and videogame playing. To some extent, my research has been a natural progression which has seen me go from fruit machine addiction to arcade video game addiction, and then to technological addictions more specifically (e.g. home computer game addiction, internet addiction, television addiction) and to behavioural addic- tions more generally (e.g. exercise addiction, sex addiction).

Now that I appear to be firmly entrenched in this research area, my motivations for continuing are also diverse. I like the fact that my research may be seen by some psychologists as controversial (for instance, many people reading this may think addictions to the internet or exercise are spurious) because this brings with it the chance to debate widely about the theoretical underpinnings of what it is to be addicted to something. My research also brings psychological issues to a wider audience, because the debates surrounding addiction often take place outside academic circles, whether it be in the pub on a Friday night or on a popular television show. I hope that the kind of research I undertake will continue to stimulate the debate – even if people do not agree with what I have to say.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, UK.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on November 29, 2011, in Addiction, Video game addiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

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  6. Hey There Drmarkgriffiths,
    Speaking of which, In contrast to the early years of interactive electronic entertainment, video games today are a multi-billion dollar industry with revenues that regularly exceed box office receipts at the movies.
    Great Job!

  7. Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

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  9. Good job right here. I actually enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you unquestionably bring a new voice to this topic. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Properly, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see a lot more of this from you.

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  11. I think now most of the kids are dealing with this gaming addiction. So i think parents should take care about it to overcome this addiction in kids..

  1. Pingback: Uzależnienie od gier: niepublikowany wywiad z dr Markiem Griffithsem | (wy)Grywalnia

  2. Pingback: Games which use addiction methods to retain player base. | Next Level

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