Are Video Games Addictive?

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Ethan Guinn at Lab

Guest Blogger, Ethan Guinn, a winner of NIDA’s Addiction Science Award, describes how his interest in science (and video games) has brought him lots of exciting changes and opportunities.

As a high school student, my strong suit was always the sciences, so my senior year I enrolled in an advanced science class called Science Seminar. We were given the task to do our own research projects that we would compete with over the next year. I decided to do a project on video game addiction in adolescents. This idea came from observations of “addictive” behavior in myself as well as many of my friends with regard to our video game playing; I wanted to see if there were more people in our age group experiencing the same or similar problems.

I created a survey to test the prevalence of pathological video game playing in adolescents 12-18. The survey was also used to assess the negative effects that pathological video game playing may or may not cause. My results proved to be quite interesting and when I felt I had a good enough sample, I wrote a paper and created a presentation board to compete with in future science fair competitions. Judges also must have felt my results were interesting because I won every fair I competed in throughout Oklahoma.

After winning the 2008 Oklahoma State Science Fair I was sponsored to go to the 2008 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta to compete with over 2,000 projects from 53 countries. Here I was awarded a 2nd place special award given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). I was flown to Washington, D.C., two times to present my project to many NIDA researchers as well as to the director of National Institutes of Health (NIH). After these great honors, things began to settle down and I started college. So my project was put on hold for a while.

Two years later, I was asked by Dr. Michael Rich of the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Children’s Hospital, Boston, to intern at CMCH over the summer to try and publish my project. I accepted the offer, surveyed many more students, obtained confirmation of a research grant provided by NIDA, and set off for Boston.

My time spent in Boston was one of the most exciting times of my life. I was on my own in a city very far and very different from my own. But the staff at CMCH took me under their wing and taught me a tremendous amount about the details behind proper research and analysis techniques. I feel that in the 3 months I spent at CMCH, I may have learned more about the scientific process than all of my years as a science student. And to top it all off, I was able—with a lot of help from some great mentors—to finish preparing my project for journal submission, turning it into a manuscript that we hope will be worthy of publication.

For more on Ethan’s project and a video of his presentation at NIH, visit https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2008/05/2008-n…

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