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The Sun's own expert says widespread gaming addiction claim 'incorrect'

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A researcher has responded to an article published by The Sun, which has run with the headline 'Gaming as addictive as heroin'.

The piece, which says that "Britain is in the grip of a gaming addiction which poses as big a health risk as alcohol and drug abuse", pointed to a London-based clinic which receives 5,000 calls a year from concerned parents, as well as a "dopamine levels increase in brain".


Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University Dr Mark Griffiths, who supplied a questionnaire to the two-page article that allows readers to take a quiz to see whether they are addicted to games, said that such widespread gaming addiction claims were "incorrect".

"I've spent well over 25 years studying video game addiction," he told Eurogamer.

"If we're we're going to use the word addiction we have to use the same concepts, signs and symptoms we find in other more traditional addictions, like withdrawal and tolerance. By doing that, the number of people who end up being addicted by my criteria are actually few and far between.

"The little thing I did for The Sun is actually based on real criteria I use in my research. The number of people who would score seven out of ten of those items I put in The Sun today, I'd find it very hard to believe there would be more than a handful of people out there that would score high on all those things.

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"You'd probably get a lot of people who might endorse three or four of them, but that doesn't mean they're addicted. That might be somebody who has problems with it."

While Dr Griffiths stressed that addiction to games does exist, cases are a "very tiny minority" and "most kids can afford to play three hours a day without it impacting on their education, their physical education and their social networks".

"Yes, I believe video game addiction exists, and if it is a genuine addiction it may well be as addictive as other more traditional things in terms of signs, symptoms and components," he said. "But the good news is it is a very tiny minority who are genuinely addicted to video games."

He added: "There is no evidence the country is in 'the grip of addiction'. Yes, we have various studies showing a small minority have problematic gaming.

"But problematic gaming doesn't necessarily mean gaming addiction. They're two very separate things. Yet the media seem to put them as the same."

Xbox One controller

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As for the headline that compares gaming to heroin, Griffiths said he believes the criteria for any addiction would be the same, in that it "becomes the most important thing in your life, it compromises everything else in your life including your relationship, work and hobbies".

"It's a bit like that trick question my physics teacher used to give us, which was, if you've got a tonne of feathers and a tonne of lead, which weighs heavier? Most kids put down a tonne of feathers, but the whole point is it's a tonne," he said.

"It's quite clear that some, whether it's kids or young adults, have some problems around the fact they seem to be unable to control the amount of time they spend gaming, and maybe it's impacting other areas of their life. But just because there are some addictive-like components there it doesn't mean they're genuinely addicted."

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Eurogamer also discussed the piece itself, saying that headlines and articles are often put together by different teams.

"The Sun's headline is of course an attempt to draw in the reader with an eye-catching - and shocking - statement," said the site's news editor Wesley Yin-Poole.

"Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by that. Newspaper headlines and the articles they sell are often created by separate teams - teams that sometimes disagree with each other. It is the overall tone of the article that is of more interest. As the saying goes around the newsroom: bad news is good news."

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