Researchers seek a more helpful attitude from games industry on addiction research

Researchers seek a more helpful attitude from games industry on addiction research

Academics in the UK have expressed ire at an industry unwilling to cooperate on research into gaming.

Several researchers speaking at an evidence hearing for the Immersive and Addictive Technologies Inquiry claimed that research into the effects of games - particularly surrounding loot boxes and gambling - have been met with hostility by an industry resentful of “20 to 30 years of people prodding them about violence".

Dr David Zendle, a lead author on a number of papers on the connection between gambling and loot boxes at York St John University, said the industry held objective data needed to gain a full picture of the problem but is reluctant to share.

"We are scrabbling around in the dark here, lighting little matches and seeing tiny bits of the pictures around us,” said Dr Zendle. “They have flashlights. Let us use your flashlights."

Dr Daria Kuss from Nottingham Trent University added: "In order to increase the evidence base, we need all of us to work together with the gaming industry, with the government, with clinicians and with patients to produce that research and establish the evidence base on which we can continue in terms of developing prevention efforts and how to raise awareness of possible problems."

But others, like Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, feels that while the industry needs more awareness of its own failings, direct intervention could harm or hinder research.

"There is a lot of work to be done on addictive features and I think the industry has a responsibility there, but gaming disorder is treated very cheaply,” said Dr Bowden-Jones. “I do not believe involving the industry would necessarily be a great thing.”

Whether or not video games are addictive is a topic that has been examined for well over a decade now. 'Gaming disorder' was added to the World Health Organisation's International Compendium of Diseases - a handbook that outlines various conditions and can help people get the treatment they need - last year. 

Video game trade bodies from around the world were resistant to this, releasing their own report saying that more research needs to be into the topic. American trade body The ESA has repeatedly said that video games are not addictive, too. 

Staff Writer

Natalie Clayton is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer and game developer. Besides PCGamesInsider and, she's written across the games media landscape and was named in the 2018 100 Rising Star list.