Video Gaming Addiction Statistics: Real Problem or Phony Panic?

When people tried to imagine the yet to be realized cyber world more than three decades ago, they didn’t have video gaming addiction statistics to contend with. Many dreamt of a new utopian era in which information, cultural influences and opinions flew freely to the benefit of mankind. But others weren’t so optimistic. Some of the Sci-Fi publications and other literature at the time painted  the internet and advancements in technology as a road towards apathy and the atomization of society. Today, we know that neither of these two extremes panned out, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Video Gaming Addiction Statistics Key Findings 2020

  • In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized gaming addiction as a disorder for the first time.
  • Among those with gaming addiction problems, 94% are male and 6% are female
  • Studies estimate that 1-10% of gamers worldwide struggle with gaming addiction.
  • From 2014 to 2017, American men are working 1.8 hours less than in the previous decade and are spending 1.8 hours more on video games
  • 8.5% of youth gamers in the US are addicted to video games

For many of us, this brave new world made video games a part of our everyday lives. You, your kids and even your parents probably play them. Games have their own celebrities, sports tournaments and scandals. But the question of whether we game too much has been a recurrent one over the years. In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized gaming addiction as a disorder, further fueling the debate on the issue. Some view the designation as a long-awaited recognition of a serious mental health problem. However, others condemn it as an unjustified stigmatization of gaming which they believe is no different from any other hobby.

We compiled data and statistics of video gaming addiction from sources on both sides of that debate. Check out our page to gain insight into this nuanced public issue.

Gaming Addiction Statistics

1. In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized gaming addiction as a disorder for the first time.

(WHO)

In 2018, WHO recognized gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. This means that it officially included addiction to video games to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11. The WHO’s video game addiction definition stipulates that the disorder represents a pattern of gaming in which the person has impaired control over gaming habits and in which gaming becomes a dominant activity at the cost of other, regular, social activities.

WHO is not the only health organization to recognize gaming addiction as a disorder. In response to video game addiction statistics, the American Psychiatric Association included “internet gaming disorder” as an issue that requires further research and examination in the future. WHO’s decision to classify gaming addiction as a disorder was met with both praise and criticism.


2. Among those with gaming addiction problems, 94% are male and 6% are female.

(Recovery Village)

While many new bits of data seem to dispel the illusion that gaming is a completely male-dominated hobby, there seems to be a significant gender gap when talking about gaming addiction. Video gaming addiction stats provided by Recovery Village show that 94% of gamers struggling with addiction are male.


3. Around 8.5% of youth gamers in the US are addicted to video games.

(Science Daily)

One of the most frequently quoted studies concerning gaming addiction in the US comes from Iowa University. The 2009 national study found that nearly 1 in 10 American youth gamers are addicted to video games. In other words, these gaming addiction stats show that 8.5% of youth gamers are pathological players.


4. Gaming addiction caused 16% of issues related to OCD.

(SAGE Publishing)

Many studies also point to the connection between gaming addiction and other mental health issues. One study found that gaming addiction was the cause of 16% of issues related to OCD and physical symptoms. These statistics on video game addiction indicate that gaming can act as a gateway to numerous mental health problems.


5. 9% of students in Singapore that were categorized as pathological gamers used video games to cope with depression and anxiety.

(American Academy of Pediatrics)

A study conducted in 2011 and involving 3,000 elementary and secondary school students in Singapore, reached similar conclusions as the aforementioned research on US youths. The study found that 9% of the students can be classified as pathological gamers. This means that they’ve used video gaming as an escape and a way to cope with depression and anxiety. It is not uncommon for people to fixate on certain hobbies or activities when faced with issues. This is one of the reasons for the pushback against the decision to categorize gaming addiction in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Critics of that decision are pointing to video game addiction facts that show how people tend to deal with everyday problems, and they are asking why gaming is being pathologized while other hobbies are not.


6. One study found that those who were diagnosed with internet gaming disorder had increased levels of social anxiety.

(Anxiety)

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games are an immensely popular video game genre. The core concept of these games revolves around making an avatar and interacting with other players in the vast online environment. Players level up their character, devote time to obtaining better gear and overcoming challenges. MMORPGs became very popular in the 2000s, first with Everquest and then with World of Warcraft, which came out in 2004. Statistics on gaming show that WoW changed the gaming landscape, hitting unprecedented levels of popularity and peaking at 12 million active players. The design of MMORPGs requires players to devote a significant amount of time to developing their character. This is why the genre is often identified as the main culprit behind video game addiction.

A 2017 study found that MMORPGs players who had an internet gaming disorder also displayed increased levels of social anxiety. Furthermore, those individuals with social anxiety disorder were less anxious when they were interacting with other players through their in-game characters.


7. Individuals diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have elevated rates of problematic video game usage.

(Wiley Online Library)

ADHD refers to a disorder characterized by impulsivity, inattention, prolonged periods of procrastination and short bursts of hyperactivity. This disorder is especially prevalent among adolescents with estimates saying that between 5% and 11% of this age group suffers from ADHD. Of course, adolescents are one of the most represented groups among gamers since they are able to devote more time to gaming.

A pediatric study from 2018 found that individuals diagnosed with ADHD might spend excessive amounts of time playing video games. This is due to the fact that individuals with ADHD usually have poor time management and might hyperfocus on a certain video game, which in turn rewards them with brief periods of attention. The presented statistics on video games and ADHD from this study show that more than half of the children diagnosed with the disorder spent over 2 hours per day playing video games at the expense of other age-appropriate activities. This is especially true on the weekends. The study offers further evidence to support the argument that there is a connection between several mental health issues and gaming. In fact, handheld gadgets are not only responsible for mental health issues, but also for the lack of imagination, as recent studies suggest.


8. Studies indicate that those with autism that play role-playing games tend to display oppositional behaviors more often.

(Research Autism)

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri found that males between the ages of 8 and 18 with an autism spectrum diagnosis spent an average of 2.4 hours a day playing video games. The study found no correlation between daily game time and inattention, oppositional defiant behavior or hyperactivity. Interestingly, the study also concluded that there was no connection between violence in games and inattention/oppositional behavior.

However, statistics about video games and autism reveal that boys who primarily played RPGs were much more likely to exhibit oppositional behaviors. The revelations once again throw the spotlight on RPGs as a problematic genre.


9. Video game developers are accused of purposefully adding addictive elements to their games

(Medium)

In recent years, evidence and testimonies increasingly suggest that players are not the only ones to blame for their addictions. Stats about video games indicate that game developers are consciously injecting addictive mechanics into their video games. It’s no secret that every company wants their product to be as popular as possible for longer periods of time. This is especially true in the video game industry and more specifically when it comes to online video games. Single-player video games are usually designed to have the customer spend a certain amount of time with the product. The player may get through the game multiple times on different difficulty levels before deciding to move on.

Online games, however, depend on a devoted player base that will continue playing for longer periods of time. Therefore, developers behind these games usually add in-game activities that prolong the game’s lifespan. These include daily, repetitive activities, time-gated content, the promise of rewards and so on. A growing number of companies have faced recent allegations of purposefully adding addictive mechanisms to their products. These instruments target vulnerable players and are designed to keep them playing longer or get them to spend money in the game.


10. Studies estimate that 1-10% of gamers worldwide struggle with gaming addiction.

(Game Quitters)

There is no real consensus on how many people are addicted to video games globally. Different studies estimate that gaming addiction among the global gamer community stands between 1 and 10%. According to WHO research, the percentage of gamers with compulsive addiction issues is 3-4%. While one could argue that this is not a significant portion of the gamer population, it still means addiction is a very real problem for a certain number of people.


11. From 2014 to 2017, American men are working 1.8 hours less than in the previous decade and are spending 1.8 hours more on video games.

(New York Times)

One of the more obvious behavioral changes caused by disruptive gaming habits is less time being devoted to obligations and regular social activities. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that young American men are working less in order to spend more time playing video games. According to these video game facts and statistics, men between 21 to 30 years old spent a weekly average of 1.8 hours less on work between 2014 and 2017 than men in the same age group a decade earlier. Furthermore, the time they’ve spent on video games has increased by the exact same amount of 1.8 hours. Men aged 21 to 30 seem to show the sharpest decline in their weekly work hours.


12. Gamers spend an average of 7.1 hours playing video games each week.

(Limelight)

The amount of time being spent on video games is undoubtedly increasing. The 2019 State of Online Gaming report from Limelight shows that gamers spend 7.1 hours on average playing video games. This presents a 19.3% increase from 2018. However, this does not necessarily mean that we’re collectively developing video game addictions. Internet and mobile usage are increasing at a much faster pace, yet neither were added to the ICD as specific disorders. Still, it is indicative of the changes in how we socialize and/or spend our leisure time.


13. An average gamer in the United States spends12 hours playing weekly.

(New York Times)

The US seems to be significantly ahead of the global average when we look at the time spent gaming on a weekly basis. Video game usage statistics show that American gamers spend an average of 12 hours weekly playing video games. Perhaps the more surprising and worrying bit of data is that 34 million Americans spend an average of 22 hours per week gaming. That’s double the national average number and amounts to an entire weekday devoted to gaming.

Unfortunately, there is more troubling statistics concerning American gamers. The New York Times reports that 60% of gamers neglected sleep to keep playing and 40% of them missed a meal for the same reason.


14. In 2018, we spent 9 billion hours watching streamers on Twitch.

(New York Times)

Twitch is a massively popular streaming platform that makes or breaks video game celebrities. On Twitch, viewers follow channels on which individuals and organizations stream various events, giveaways and predominantly their video game play. While Twitch is facing some challenges from its new competitors like Mixer, it’s still by far the most dominant streaming platform, with millions of viewers.

Video game addiction statistics from 2018 show that Twitch’s worldwide viewers spent 9 billion hours watching streamers. This is 3 billion more than in 2017, representing a 50% increase in viewing time. This shows that not only are we spending more time playing video games, but we are also devoting significant chunks of our free time  – or not so free time – to just watching other people play games.


15. Those that struggle with video game addiction are likely to have underlying psychological or social problems.

(SAGE Publishing)

A study conducted by the UK’s University of Cardiff looked at the correlation between adolescents with gaming problems and several psychological and social issues. Their results support some of our previously mentioned research. Young people with gaming problems tend to have some form of behavioral or psychological issues. However, this is one area of disagreement within the public debate about gaming addiction. Are video games addictive themselves or is it a symptom of other problems? The researchers behind the study in question believe the latter, stating that there’s not enough evidence for gaming addiction to be considered a clinical disorder by itself.

China Video Game Addiction Statistics

16. 18 % of young Chinese gamers are at risk of video game addiction.

(GB Times)

China seems to have a significant problem with gaming addiction among its youth. As GB Times reports, 18% of teens in China are at risk of video game addiction. According to a survey conducted among almost 5,000 Beijing students, 18% of them play video games for 4-5 hours daily. These online gaming statistics have sparked concern in China. The stats also led to the introduction of new regulations on much time and money young people can spend on video games. These regulations are unique to the Chinese government, which takes it upon itself to tackle important societal problems.


17. New guidelines in China prohibit users under 18 from playing games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m and restrict playing time to no longer than 90 minutes on weekdays.

(New York Times)

In November 2019, the Chinese government released new guidelines that are designed to curb video game addiction among the country’s teenage population. The new regulations come on the heels of troubling video game statistics from 2019, restricting gamers aged under 18 from playing video games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The time they can spend gaming is limited to 90 minutes during weekdays and up to 3 hours during weekends and holidays. These regulations came after years of unprecedented growth for China’s online gaming industry, which now rakes in $33 billion annually. China is home to the world’s richest and biggest game developer, Tencent.


18. China’s regulations also limit gamers aged 8 to 16 from spending over $29 per month on their online gaming accounts.

(BBC)

Due to the perceived negative effects of video game addiction, China’s new gaming guidelines do not only limit the amount of time young people can spend playing games, but also impose restrictions on the amount of money they’re allowed to spend. According to these regulations, users younger than 16 can spend up to 200 yuan ($29) per month on video games, while those between the ages of 16-18 can spend double that amount. The reason for limiting spending among younger users is that the most popular online games, both in China and worldwide, generate most of their revenue through microtransactions. These refer to various in-game items like cosmetics, seasonal passes and bonuses that you can purchase for real money, while the core game is usually free.

Many people argue that these games are designed to get users to spend as much money as possible. Therefore, the Chinese government decided to limit spending among vulnerable groups such as young people.


19. In 2015, 500 million Chinese children had problems with eyesight.

(BBC)

Aside from fuelling addiction, gaming has been detrimental to the health of China’s youth in another way. According to symptoms of computer gaming addiction statistics from 2015, around 500 million Chinese children have been diagnosed with vision impairment problems. The Chinese government identified gaming, heavy study loads and electronic devices in general as some of the causes of this epidemic.

European Video Game Addiction Stats

20. 41% of online video game players said they use games to escape real-life problems.

(National Center for Biotechnology Information)

Two researchers, Hussain and Griffiths, conducted a study in 2009 concerning the experiences of online gamers – specifically those that play MMORPGs. Their video gaming addiction statistics show that escapism was the main reason for playing online games for 41% of those covered by the research. Furthermore, the researchers categorized 7% of those surveyed as being dependent on gaming. These gamers relied on video games to modify their mood and showed signs of relapsing.


21. Online role-playing games are more likely to lead to video game addiction than other video game genres.

(Taylor & Francis Online)

Online gaming appears to be the main contributor to video game addiction. Our previously mentioned statistics covered how online games are designed to encourage people to spend more time and money on playing. Some researchers argue that this leads to video game addiction.  Online gaming addiction statistics gathered by Van Rooij in 2010 support this argument, concluding that online games such as MMORPGs are most likely to lead to video game addiction. Therefore, he calls for increased social awareness about issues concerning video games, including the possible introduction of regulation.


22. Video game addiction may stem from personal and mental problems rather than the games themselves.

(ResearchGate)

This particular research from 2008 by Richard Wood highlights flaws in arguments that attribute addiction to video games.  The researcher states that those who display signs of what we usually interpret as video game addiction are the result of other problems in life and ineffective time management.  This means that people dealing with depression and ordinary concerns in their everyday lives, turn to video games as a coping mechanism. This contradicts conclusions by some video gaming addiction statistics that the games are the sole cause of the addiction.


23. In Germany, the majority of those addicted to video games are males from families with lower academic achievements and tend to use video games as a way of coping with negativity.

(National Center for Biotechnology Information)

Another important thing to keep in mind when gathering data on video gaming addiction is the person’s social status and level of education. A 2008 German study that contributes to statistics on video gamers shows that 6.3% of the 221 participating pupils displayed signs of video game addiction. Most of them had lower educational backgrounds and used video games as a mood management tool. The findings offer further support for the argument that addictive gaming behavior is often a symptom of other socio-economic and psychological issues.

Most popular video game addiction statistics

24. Tencent limited playtime for young gamers that played Honour of Kings, a vastly popular online video game in China.

(Reuters)

The government in Beijing is not the only authority regulating gaming in China. Tencent, the biggest video game publisher in the world is behind one of the most popular mobile games in China – Honour of Kings. This hugely successful game has been described as a “poison” and a “drug” by Chinese officials, due to the perceived mobile games addiction it causes. Tencent responded in 2017 by limiting playtime for younger players. Users younger than 12 are limited to playing for an hour daily and those aged 12 to 18 can play for 2 hours per day.


25. 44% of surveyed World of Warcraft players say they are addicted to video games.

(Springer Nature)

World of Warcraft, an epitome of an MMORPG is one of the most popular video games in the world. Launched back in 2004, the game still has a loyal following with the help of new expansions and various content.

In 2012, when WoW was at its peak with 12 million players, a survey revealed some disturbing trends concerning video game addiction. World of Warcraft addiction statistics show that a shocking 44% of those surveyed were addicted to video games.


26. In 2018, health experts said that Fortnite can be as addictive as heroin.

(ABC News)

Unless you’re living in a cave, there’s very little chance that you haven’t heard about Fortnite. This immensely popular battle-royale game has over 80 million players and generated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2018 alone.

Fortnite is especially popular with children. In fact, it’s so popular that many people are starting to wonder whether it led to an addiction epidemic. This game almost always appears in video gaming addiction stats. One of the many stories about the game involves a teenager who did not notice a tornado in his neighborhood while playing Fortnite. In 2018, health experts compared Fortnite addiction to heroin, revealing that the game can have a negative impact on the child’s brain development because it involves the dopamine systems.

Conclusion

As the article’s introduction notes, opinions on video gaming addiction are divided. For a lot of people, the WHO’s decision to add video gaming addiction to the International Classification of Diseases was something that should’ve been done long ago. Others believe that this is just a continuation of the moral crusade against video games, which started more than two decades ago when the first drops of pixelated blood were shed in Doom and similar games.

Our data and statistics show that the jury is still out on this issue. There’s no doubt that many face problems due to their gaming habits. However, many studies suggest that gaming addiction is not the cause, but a symptom of other mental problems. Whatever the truth, we are sure to keep hearing about this topic in the foreseeable future with games becoming an increasingly prominent feature in our everyday lives.

FAQ

  • Is video gaming an addiction?

While the answer to this question is still a matter of debate, the World Health Organization recognized video gaming addiction as a disorder in 2018.

  • How common is video game addiction?

Worldwide estimates go anywhere between 1-10%, although the most quoted studies put the number at around 3% of all gamers. In the US, statistics show that 8.4% of children are addicted.

  • Are violent video games addictive?

While many are quick to blame violence in video games as the cause of addiction or violent behavior, most studies show no correlation between violent games and addiction.

  • Do video games cause depression?

This issue is still a matter of ongoing public debates. However, studies we’ve looked at show that games are often a way for people to cope with depression and are not the source of depression themselves.

  • Do video games cause anxiety?

The available body of research suggests that those that suffer from video game addiction also show higher levels of social anxiety.

  • What are the most addicting games?

With no global consensus on whether gaming addiction is actually real, there are also no exact figures available on the most addictive games. However,  video gaming addiction statistics show that the games perceived to be most addictive are online video games such as battle-royales, MOBAs and MMORPGs. These include Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Honor of Kings and others.

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