Student Learning Commons: Compulsive video gaming

Mental health professionals are looking at compulsive video game playing to see when and how it meets the diagnostic criteria of an addiction. While compulsive video-gaming has still not been officially defined as an addiction, it is gaining attention from the mental health community, and many practitioners are already using the term “video game addiction”.  This kind of behaviour may be particularly troublesome for students, who have flexible schedules that allow the choice to do more gaming, and who may lose the focus and motivation needed for university coursework because of excessive gaming.

row of students at computers

What is “gaming addiction”?

Gaming addiction is a behavioural addiction in which video games interfere with your daily life. Often students who have this addiction will require more gaming to keep them going or may become irritable and miserable without it.

Video game addiction affects many students at different stages during their studies. If you feel that this is a problem for you, there is help and strategies available. Keep reading!

According to the Centre for Internet Addiction, you might have a video game addiction if: (Check the ones that apply to you.)

  1. You play for increasing amounts of time or spend most of your non-school hours on gaming.
  2. You are thinking about gaming during other activities or lose interest in other activities.
  3. You are gaming to escape real life problems, anxiety, or depression.
  4. You lie to friends or family to conceal gaming.
  5. You feel irritable when you try to cut down on gaming.
  6. You choose gaming over seeing friends or social groups.
  7. You continue to game despite its consequences.

Why do we become addicted to gaming?

  • To escape reality or responsibilities
  • To improve self-worth or esteem
  • To allow experimentation with new parts of personality (e.g. more vocal/leadership roles/new identities).


According to CRC Health Group, these are some of the results of gaming addiction.  (Check the ones that you've experienced.)

  1. You are falling asleep in classes.
  2. You see your grades worsening.
  3. You are falling behind in assignments.
  4. You develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  5. You develop back aches or neck pains.
  6. You do not eat regularly or maintain your personal hygiene.


How can I overcome a compulsive video gaming problem?

A focus on moderation and controlled use should be practised; some ways to do this are listed here:[1]

  1. Monitor. Keep a log of what days/times and the number of hours you spend along with where you typically play games.
  2. Practice the opposite. Try to disrupt your normal gaming routine to break the habit and to disengage from gaming patterns.
  3. Use external stoppers. Schedule gaming time and set alarms or ask a friend or family member to help keep you on track.
  4. Set goals. Set goals to define and reduce the amount of time spent gaming each week.
  5. Start using gaming as a reward for completing your schoolwork, rather than gaming before schoolwork.  Start by forcing yourself to complete a small task before starting a game.  Over time, work your way up to increasingly large study goals that must be completed before you allow yourself to play your games.
  6. Abstain from particular games. Some students find it helpful to stop playing certain games they find to be extremely addicting.
  7. Use reminder cards. On index cards, list 5 major problems caused by addiction and 5 major benefits for cutting down or abstaining. Take out the index cards as a reminder as what to avoid during times or greater temptation.
  8. Develop a personal inventory. Make a list of activities that you have previously cut down or cut out of your life due to gaming. Rank each one on a scale of 1 – Very Important, 2 – Important, or 3 – Not Very Important. Identify how each of these activities have or can improve the quality of your life.
  9. If you think that gaming has taken over your life and that you have an addiction, please seek help from Health and Counselling Services (HCS) at SFU.



Young, K. (1999). Internet addiction: symptoms, evaluation and treatment. In L. VandeCreek & T. Jackson (Eds.). Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 17; pp. 19-31). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press. Retrieved from