A Screening Tool for Excessive Gamers

Clinically vetted survey:

"Video game addiction" and "Internet addiction" are not yet official medical diagnoses with standardized criteria.  Behaviors become "addictions" when they disrupt real life, such as school or work performance, real life relationships, and activities of daily living. 

The following survey was published by a research study at the Iowa State University conducted by Douglas Gentile, PhD [1]. The following questions are based on diagnostic criteria for addictive gambling behavior.

Use this survey as a guide to determine if video games and/or Internet use may be a problem in your life, but do not use the survey to make a "clinical diagnosis".

  1. Over time, have you been spending much more time playing video games, learning about video game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?
  2. Do you need to spend more time and money on video games in order to feel the same amount of excitement as other activities in your life?
  3. Have you tried to play video games for shorter durations of times but have been unsuccessful?
  4. Do you become restless or irritable when you attempt to cut down or stop playing video games?
  5. Have you played video games as a way to escape problems or negative feelings?
  6. Have you lied to family or friends about how much you play video games?
  7. Have you ever stolen a video game from a store or a friend, or stolen money to buy a video game?
  8. Do you sometimes skip household chores in order to play more video games?
  9. Do you sometimes skip homework or work in order to play more video games?
  10. Have you ever done poorly on a school assignment, test, or work assignment because you have spent so much time playing video games?
  11. Have you ever needed friends or family to give you extra money because you've spent too much of your own money on video games, software, or game Internet fees?

If you answered "yes" to six or more of these questions, then you most likely have an addiction to video games. If "yes" is answered to five or less questions, then there may be a problem. Help can be found on this resources page. 

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Internet Addiction Test (IAT) created by Dr. Kimberly Young, a psychologist and world renowned Internet addiction expert.

The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) is the first VALIDATED test for Internet Addiction to measure Internet use in terms of mild, moderate, to several levels of addiction.

Based upon the following five-point likert scale, select the response that best represents the frequency of the behavior described in the following 20-item questionnaire.

0 = Not Applicable
1 = Rarely
2 = Occasionally
3 = Frequently
4 = Often
5 = Always

___How often do you find that you stay online longer than you intended?
___How often do you neglect household chores to spend more time online?
___How often do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner?
___How often do you form new relationships with fellow online users?
___How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount of time you spend online?
___How often do your grades or school work suffer because of the amount of time you spend online?
___How often do you check your e-mail before something else that you need to do?
___How often does your job performance or productivity suffer because of the Internet?
___How often do you become defensive or secretive when anyone asks you what you do online?
___How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Internet?
___How often do you find yourself anticipating when you will go online again?
___How often do you fear that life without the Internet would be boring, empty, and joyless?
___How often do you snap, yell, or act annoyed if someone bothers you while you are online?
___How often do you lose sleep due to late-night log-ins?
___How often do you feel preoccupied with the Internet when off-line, or fantasize about being online?
___How often do you find yourself saying “just a few more minutes” when online?
___How often do you try to cut down the amount of time you spend online and fail?
___How often do you try to hide how long you’ve been online?
___How often do you choose to spend more time online over going out with others?
___How often do you feel depressed, moody, or nervous when you are off-line, which goes away once you are back online?

After all the questions have been answered, add the numbers for each response to obtain a final score. The higher the score, the greater the level of addiction and creation of problems resultant from such Internet usage.  The severity impairment index is as follows:

NONE 0 – 30 points

MILD 31- 49 points: You are an average online user. You may surf the Web a bit too long at times, but you have control over your usage.

MODERATE 50 -79 points: You are experiencing occasional or frequent problems because of the Internet. You should consider their full impact on your life.

SEVERE 80 – 100 points: Your Internet usage is causing significant problems in your life. You should evaluate the impact of the Internet on your life and address the problems directly caused by your Internet usage.

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The following screening was assembled by OLGA/OLG-Anon.

It contains questions put forth by gamers and professionals. It is not a validated diagnostic tool. We suggest that this list be printed and that you focus on the overall character of your responses, rather than on a particular answer. The screening will have more benefit to you if you are honest in your responses. When you are finished, look at your list. You must determine if you think excessive gaming is a problem.

  • Are you unable to predict the time you spend gaming?
  • Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop your game playing?
  • Do you have difficulty staying away from gaming for several days at a time?
  • Do you feel the need to play games for increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  • Do you tell yourself you can stop playing the game any time you want to, even though you keep playing when you don't mean to?
  • Do you often fear that life without gaming would be boring, empty, and joyless?
  • Have you ever decided to stop playing the game for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
  • Do you deny addiction to a MMORPG, but somehow still feel the need to play?
  • Do you feel preoccupied with gaming (do you think about previous gaming activity or anticipate your next session)?
  • Have you lied to family members, a therapist, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with gaming?
  • Do you use gaming as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g. Feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
  • Do you spend much of your free time surfing game-related websites?
  • Do you spend a significant amount of time outside the game in activities relating to the game?
  • Do you often check your gaming boards before doing other things that you need to do?
  • Do you find yourself flirting in the game in an attempt to build a relationship?
  • Do you feel your heart racing as you control your character in a flee from danger?
  • Do you feel a sudden rush of intense joy/sense of euphoria and relaxation after an in-game accomplishment?
  • Do you experience stronger emotions while in your online game than you do in real life?
  • Do you ever refer to yourself by the name of your In-Game character, or cling to your character's name for your emails, instant messenger, etc?
  • Are the majority of your friends those with whom you play games?
  • Do you try to find ways of playing your online game when you are not at home?
  • Do you occupy uninterested friends/family/partner with conversation about the game?
  • Do you attempt to get friends/family/partner to play, so you can play more?
  • Do you feel closer to your character than to your real self?
  • Have you withdrawn from real life hobbies?
  • Do you eat at the computer while gaming or do you skip meals to game?
  • Have your sleep patterns changed or do you lose sleep due to late-night raids/gaming?
  • Have you experienced physical effects from excessive gaming (e.g. carpal tunnel, eye strain, weight change, back ache, sore neck, arms, wrist)?
  • Do you spend real money on the purchase of in-game items?
  • Do you often become defensive or secretive when you are asked what you do when you are gaming?
  • Do you deny, rationalize and minimize the negative consequences of gaming?
  • Do you feel the need to "stand up for gamers" and proclaim that your life is perfect by listing all of your life's achievements, and yet still game for 4-6 hours per day?
  • Do you neglect household chores to spend time gaming?
  • Have you given up or reduced time spent at important social, occupational, or recreational activities in your real life to play the game?
  • Do you prefer the excitement of gaming to intimacy with your partner?
  • Has your excessive gaming caused trouble at home?
  • Have you missed work/school because of your game playing?
  • Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your game playing?
  • Do you wish people would mind their own business about your gaming and stop telling you what to do?
  • Do you try to hide how long you've been gaming?
  • Do you often snap, yell, or act annoyed if someone interrupts you while you are gaming?
  • Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop your gaming? Does it go away once you have started gaming again?
  • Have you ever switched from one game to another in the hope it will keep you from playing so much?
  • Do you envy people who can play the game without getting into 'trouble'?
  • Do you feel guilt, shame, anxiety or depression around the time you spend gaming?
  • Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not play the game so much?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction in this way:

August 15, 2011 Page 1 American Society of Addiction, Medicine Public Policy Statement: Short Definition of Addiction: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads tocharacteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death. Finally, from the following reference:

Brown, R.I.F. (1991). Gaming, gambling and other addictive play. In J.H. Kerr & M.J. Apter (Eds.), Adult place: A reversal theory approach (pp. 101aEU"118). Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Brown's core facets of addiction:

These were summarized nicely by Dr. Douglas Gentile in his new national study on youth gaming...

Salience - the activity dominates the person's life, cognitively or behaviourly

Euphoria or relief - provides 'high' or relief of unpleasant feelings

Tolerance - over time, a greater amount of the activity is needed to achieve the same 'high'

Withdrawal Symptoms - the person experiences unpleasant feelings or negative emotions when unable to engage in the activity

Conflict - other people, work, obligations, self (cognitive dissonance)

Relapse and reinstatement - the person continues or starts again despite attempts to abstain