We’re in the throes of a technological age, where many people spend more time interacting with people virtually than in person. We’re also in an era where video games—online, console-based, or otherwise—are extremely popular, and in many cases, “addicting.”

When people think of addicting video games, they often think of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs). While MMORPGs certainly fit the mold, it’s important to remember that many people identify with “casual” online games like Angry Birds, Farmville, or Plants vs. Zombies. And though they are listed as “casual” games, they can be just as addictive.

Game companies, like any other consumer-driven business, are constantly looking to make their games more “addicting” so that players will want to spend more time playing the game. While this in itself is not meant to be harmful, some people claim actual addiction to video games—in a way that’s no longer fun.

In a CNN inverview, Dr. Charles O’Brien discussed the topic of video game addiction and whether it could be an actual disorder. According to O’Brien, some studies have been done, but so far there’s not enough evidence or specificity to determine if it’s a real disorder. Certainly, there are programs around the world that treat it as such, but as of yet the therapy is talk-based and non-medicated.

The real question is whether it’s a choice, an obsession, or an actual disorder. Research on it didn’t really begin until the 2000s, but the information available is still limited. Most of the “evidence” at this point is purely anecdotal—stories of spending copious amounts of time and money on video games, all the while neglecting activities and friends.

It could also be linked to other disorders, like depression or OCD, simply being used as a stress reliever or a way to escape reality. O’Brien comments that at this point, it’s mostly speculation. We’ve seen addictive behaviors, but we still need scientific data to determine the scope of the problem and whether it should be a classified disorder in the U.S.

At what point does an innocent hobby turn into an addiction? Is it a choice we make ourselves? Is everyone susceptible, or only certain people? What are the implications of diagnosing it as a disorder? These are questions that remain unanswered.

Ryan Boucher is a business student interested in how the world works.  Check out his blog for more musings on life, business, and the world in general.

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