of issues surrounding advising at risk students
Addiction: A Threat To Student Success! What Advisors Need To
By Lee Kem
19 year old freshman male walks into your office looking disheveled,
lacking personal hygiene, with red eyes, and has lost weight.
The student avoids eye contact, seems uncomfortable, angry, and
anxious to leave your office. The academic report on your desk
shows that he is frequently absent, falls asleep in class, and
his assignments are late or nonexistent. During the interview,
you learn the student has few friends, procrastinates, isolates
himself in his room, has carpel tunnel syndrome, eats irregularly,
sleeps two hours each night, has migraines and backaches.
40 year old senior female wants help studying for the GRE exam
she is taking - tomorrow. Procrastination is a pattern with this
student. Although her GPA and ACT are high, she admits to exhaustion
because she sleeps two or three hours each night and lives on
chocolate and caffeine. Assignments are turned in on time but
only after pulling several 'all nighters.'
do these two students have in common? Insights garnered from answers
to your questions lead you to believe that the source of both
problems is overuse of the internet and the playing of computer
or video games: Gamer Addiction.
IS GAMER ADDICTION?
Addiction is an obsession with video game playing that usually
begins in elementary and middle school. By college, the individual
progresses from simple to elaborate games and the student is game-hooked.
An activity becomes an addiction when it is used to change an
individual's mood. It becomes abuse when it interferes with 'one's
work or school, or disrupts personal or family relationships,
and becomes increasingly necessary to feel good' (Orzack, 2005a,
takes away from life and reduces motivation to do anything beyond
the focus of the addiction (IGDA panel). Niolosi (2002) found
that video games are part of the daily routine for 65% of American
girls and 85% of American boys. NBC News ( 5-19-05
) reported that one in eight
gamers develops patterns similar to other types of addiction and
abuse. Tournemillie (2002) noted that a survey of 1500 teenagers
indicated 25% were compulsive video gamers. Fifty per cent of
those surveyed used the word 'addiction' to describe a friend's
video games are available in a plethora of venues that draw individuals
into the world of the game. Games are designed to keep the player
riveted to action. Players experience a sense of control when
they enter into the fantasy world of speed, realism, violence,
new morals, and interoperability. Many games offer on-line anonymous
interaction with other people; a 'hook' is a sense of family or
belonging in the form of a pseudo persona the player develops
when repeatedly playing the game. The longer the game is played,
the more the pseudo persona can replace reality.
is important to understand that Gamer Addiction has the basic
identifying characteristics of all addictions. These tend to be
progressive and cyclic.
- Neglects everything to
play the video games: studies, work, hygiene, sleep, relationships,
food, family and friends
- Denies and lies about the
amount of time devoted to playing and expenses involved
- Will lie to protect source
of pleasure and good feelings
- Angry when something/someone
interferes with activity
- Feels empty, depressed,
irritable when not at computer or gaming
|Unable to Control
- Money spent on addiction
before paying for food/rent/etc.
- Will go in debt to pursue
and engage in addiction
- A high followed by a low;
cure is to play again and regain the high A deeper low
follows and the cycle is repeated
The two major indicators of Gamer Addiction are withdrawal and
isolation. The common thread in addiction is an emotional dysregulation.
Individuals are often depressed, lonely, angry, shy, afraid to
go out, in a high family conflict situation, and have low self-esteem.
This affects significant relationships with roommates, fellow
students, parents, friends, faculty, and advisors. Players can
have difficulty separating the game or fantasy world and reality.
The compulsive playing tends to cover these underlying psychological
problems (Cromie, 1999).
(2002) found that 65% of girls and 85% of boys are game players
and one in eight gamers develops patterns of addiction. In a college/university
with 10,000 students, that would mean that 960 students are addicted.
many students, choosing gaming over academics has become the norm.
Students stay up too late or all night, miss class, skip assignments,
and if confronted, can exhibit belligerent behavior with instructors/advisors.
Orzack (2005b) noted that 'Many counselors and deans of students
report an increased association between inappropriate and excessive
computer use and rule infractions, relationship problems, and
academic difficulties (p. 1).'
playing often begins from boredom; the excitement becomes the
reward. This behavior is reinforced on an intermittent reinforcement
schedule - the most powerful type of reinforcer. The college classroom
comes into direct competition with the daily reinforcement from
the video games. Playing provides an alternate reality in which
problems are solved and success and reward is possible. When life
seems out of control, the game provides a sense of control. If
life becomes difficult or stressful, the game will provide an
avenue of escape from responsibility and reality.
FOR ADDRESSING GAMER ADDICTION
Addiction - also referred to as Stimulus Addiction, Narcissistic
Self-Stimulation or Feelings Management Technology (Meunier, 2003)
- is a very complex issue and requires professional psychological
treatment. The lines between work/play/school have become unclear
and vague. The student needs professional help to develop adequate
coping skills and address underlying issues hidden by Gamer Addiction.
the academic environment, the responsibility for dealing with
Gamer Addiction falls in three separate but overlapping functional
areas. Individuals within these groups must coordinate, cooperate,
and communicate effectively to ensure success in reducing Gamer
1) Identification of potential gamer addicts
|Academic advisors, counselors
and faculty members
2)Establishment of policies, programs,
and procedures related to Gamer Addiction
administration and management employees
of the addiction process, its consequences, and self-control
following chart (with its lists of four focus areas) can assist
advisors in identification of possible addicts
of personal hygiene
- Sleeps in class
- Avoids eye contact
- Lack of sleep
- Doesn't eat regularly
- Games for up to 20 hours
at a time
- Assignments not completed
- Sleeps in class
- Argumentative with professors
- Probation or suspension
School administration is responsible for establishing policies,
programs, and procedures to ensure that identified gamer addicts
have the available resources and adequate psychological services.
Services for Gamer Addiction could be an expansion of already
existing services for drug and alcohol abuse. Information about
Gamer Addiction needs to be distributed on the institutional web
sites, provided to parents of incoming freshmen, and students
must be informed about the addiction to aid in identification
with themselves and others.
Students must understand the importance of addictions.They
need to develop the self-discipline and prioritization skills
necessary for successful work/school/academics.Accepting
help for the addiction is imperative! Therapy should focus on
the underlying cause of the addiction and development of appropriate
and effective coping skills.
advisors need to add Gamer Addiction to our 'Advising Tool Kit!'
Utilizing a Gaming Addiction Screening Questionnaire I developed,
I administered the questionnaire to a graduate class. Results
showed 1 in 8 of these students were addicted to gaming. Further
organization-wide administration of the questionnaire is planned
for the 2005-2006 academic year.
and referral are the required dual approaches to identify students
with Gamer Addiction. Orzack (2005a) noted that 'Normalizing computer
uses is more and more a requirement in our modern society (p.
1).' The challenges that face academic advisors are manifold in
this world where the lines between academics, work, home, relationships,
and gaming - the real and the fantasy worlds - can become vague
and unclear. We must identify gamer addiction early in the students'
college career if we are to help ensure students' academic and
Murray State University
College of Education
W. (1999) Computer Addiction is coming On-Line. Retrieved from http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/1999/01.21/computer.html
M. (2005a). Q&A with Dr. Orzack. Retrieved from
M. (2005b) Cyberkids: Overdosing On Computers. Retrieved from
Game Developer Association (IGDA) http://www.igda.org
Austin Chapter (2003). Panel on Game Addiction. Retrieved from http://www.igda.org/panel-game-addiction
B (2002). Video Game Culture: A Harmless Addiction? Retrieved
D. (2002). First-person shooter: The video gamer's addiction.
J., and Bruckman, A. 2001. The Turing Game: Exploring Identity
in an Online Environment. Convergence Vol. 7 (3) 2001
Game Developers Association (IGDA) http://www.igda.org/
non-profit professional membership organization that advocates
globally on issues related to digital game creation including
student and academic relations.
this resource using APA style as:
L. (2005). Gamer addiction: A threat to student success! What
advisors need to know Retrieved from NACADA
Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: [Insert URL Here}