Harmless gaming or addiction? Psychological test developed for the "Gaming Disorder"
Computer games are particularly popular with children and adolescents. But even many adults often cannot stop “paddling”. Some people get addicted to it. But how do you recognize a computer game addiction? A new “gaming disorder” test that researchers have now developed could help here in the future.
Computer game addiction recognized as a mental illness
A few days ago, in addition to compulsive sexual behavior and burnout, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized excessive computer games as a disease. The inclusion of the so-called "gaming disorder" in the WHO disease catalog and the associated definition offer new opportunities to research the health and psychosocial effects of excessive computer gaming. Researchers led by Professor Christian Montag from the University of Ulm have now developed the world's first psychological test to investigate computer game addiction.
Effects of computer games
Video games are particularly popular with younger people. However, many parents are worried that playing too much harms the children.
But such games are often better than their reputation. Scientific studies have shown that some computer gamers can learn much better and that video games are sometimes good for brain development.
Researchers from Canada also reported that certain video games could protect against dementia.
However, studies also showed the negative side of “daddling”. Canadian scientists found that some video games can destroy valuable brain mass in the hippocampus area.
Such games can also make you addicted.
Severe impairments in family life
As stated in a statement from the University of Ulm, people who can no longer control their gaming behavior could give computer game priority over other activities and, despite negative consequences, could not change this behavior, according to the new WHO definition, suffering from computer game addiction.
A few months ago, the World Health Organization included the so-called gaming disorder in the 11th edition of its "International Classification of Diseases" (ICD-11) catalog - now the catalog has also been officially expanded.
According to the WHO, however, computer game addiction can only be assumed if those affected show this behavior pattern for at least twelve months and there are serious impairments to family life, education or work.
First psychometric tool based on new WHO criteria
Already in 2013, the related disorder "Internet Gaming Disorder" was at least included as a working term in the appendix to the diagnostic directory ("Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" - DSM-5) of the American psychiatric society.
Due to differing diagnostic criteria, results from previous psychological tests on the “Internet Gaming Disorder” can only be transferred to computer game addiction according to WHO criteria to a limited extent.
Therefore, researchers from Ulm, Cologne, London, Chinese universities and Australia have developed the world's first psychometric instrument for examining “gaming disorder” according to the new WHO criteria.
Their results were published in the specialist journal "International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction".
The "Gaming Disorder Test" is now also publicly available in German via the online platform "www.gaming-disorder.org".
Test checked against a sample
According to the information, the online questionnaire now presented is based on the criteria of the WHO and records gaming activities from the past twelve months up to the day of the survey on a scale of one to five (1 stands for the self-assessment "never" and 5 means " very often").
The aim of this psychometric instrument is less to diagnose than to investigate the effects of excessive gaming. Participants only find out whether their results show a tendency towards “gaming disorder” in comparison with all subjects.
The researchers have already checked their new test using a sample of more than 550 young Chinese and British.
"Excessive video games are already a serious health risk in Asian countries and an emerging problem in Europe," said Christian Montag, Heisenberg professor and head of the Department of Molecular Psychology at the University of Ulm.
"In order to be able to carry out large, international studies, we designed the new tool across cultures and tested it in China and Great Britain," explains the expert.
Researchers draw a positive balance
According to the release, the sample included 236 young Chinese studying at a university in Beijing and 324 British students from the Greater London area and the East Midlands. The average age was 23 years.
The exclusion criterion for participating in the online survey was the information that they had not played a video game in the past twelve months.
After completing the survey, the scientists used complex statistical methods to check whether the instrument is suitable for measuring computer game addiction ("validity") and whether it reliably measures the construct ("reliability").
They were also able to draw initial conclusions about the gaming behavior of the Chinese and British students examined. The occurrence of computer game addiction according to WHO criteria did not differ significantly between the two national groups.
On average, the students stated that they played twelve hours a week. They spend almost half of this time (46%) on weekends alone in front of the computer or other mobile devices.
A total of 36 participants (6.4 percent) reported major everyday problems due to their playing behavior and could therefore meet the WHO diagnostic criteria. After this test run, the researchers draw a positive balance:
"The Gaming Disorder Test appears to be suitable for determining the frequency and, in combination with other questionnaires, effects of computer game addiction in large, cross-cultural groups according to the proposed WHO criteria," said Montag.
The new questionnaire would have to be validated on patient samples in the future.
Computer game addiction investigation planned
The research group is currently planning the largest ever investigation into computer game addiction with as many as possible thousands of participants: The Gaming Disorder Test is available online for all interested parties.
The researchers hope to understand at which point computer games become a (health) problem and which factors contribute to the emergence of the "gaming disorder" - for example, socio-demographic characteristics, the individual personality and motivation of gamers are examined.
Researchers from the Medical Faculty of the University of Tasmania (Australia), Birkbeck University in London, China's Beijing University and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu participated in the study.
From Germany, scientists from the universities of Ulm and Cologne played a major role.
About the term "gaming disorder"
As the Ulm University communication finally explains, the World Health Organization (WHO) has included the new clinical picture as a "gaming disorder" in its "International Classification of Diseases" catalog.
So far there is no uniform German translation: The terms "computer game addiction" or "video game addiction", which are descriptive in German, are often used.
However, it should be noted that the WHO does not use the term “addiction”.
Rather, the term "gaming disorder" used in English describes a disorder that is characterized by excessive computer games. It remains to be seen which term will prevail in German. (ad)