Have you ever spent way too many hours gaming? How do you know when it's become a real problem?

The psychosocial and mental health implications of Gaming Disorder (GD) can now be better understood with researchers developing the world’s first psychological test to assess the severity of the disorder.

Once seen simply as ‘people gaming for too many hours,’ GD was officially recognised as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in May 2019.

Anyone who can no longer control their gaming behaviour, prioritises computer games over other activities and does not change this behaviour despite severe negative consequences, could be suffering from GD according to the WHO definition.

University of Tasmania Division of Psychology researcher Dr Halley Pontes, along with Professor Christian Montag from Ulm University (Germany), led a pioneering research project aiming to find the most accurate means of measuring the effects of GD.

The team developed the world’s first psychological test to assess the severity of GD symptoms and conducted a study of more than 550 students from Great Britain and China.

Their research was published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.

Due to past differences in diagnostic criteria, the results of existing psychological tests for 'internet gaming disorder' are only partly transferable to the 'gaming disorder' as defined by the WHO.

Together, the international research team led by Dr Pontes have developed the world's first psychometric instrument to study and assess GD based on the WHO criteria.

Dr Pontes said the study was also the first to analyse the diagnostic properties of the WHO GD clinical criteria in a cross-cultural setting using data from British and Chinese gamers.

Anyone interested in checking their gaming behaviours can now fill in a few questions on the researchers’ online platform.

The online platform provides to those participating in the survey, personalised feedback on their gaming behaviours in reference to nearly 200,000 gamers that have already completed the survey.

The research team will recruit further participants via ESL, the largest esports company, with close ties to the gaming community. Rodrigo Samwell, Chief Marketing Officer at ESL, said the esports company wanted to contribute to responsible gaming, and that is why ESL is supporting the study to help individuals understand better their behaviours towards gaming. With this new study, the research group aims to understand at which point gaming is becoming a (health) problem and what factors contribute to GD, including sociodemographic variables, personality and motivations.

This platform will allow us to be able to estimate accurate prevalence rates of GD among a broader population of gamers and draw the line between healthy and unhealthy gaming behaviour.

Interested in conducting your own research? Apply now to become a research student.

Find out more about studying Psychology at the University of Tasmania here.

About Dr Halley Pontes