Skip to main content

Here's how to know if someone is struggling with a video game addiction: Expert


Video game addiction is a condition Dr. Nigel Turner from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) sees often.

Turner says video game addiction can occur when positive reinforcement of winning coupled with an "escape" to a fantasy land is in a product. It can fuel unhealthy habits like increased dependency on games and a lack of socialization.

He says the excitement and lack of pauses between games make the games addictive.

"The fact that you can keep playing, there's no interruption in the excitement, the thrill, the positive nature and the escape aspects of that game," he told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. "So that you can continue to play and over and over and over again…all the really successful games have that quality."


Turner, who works with all kinds of people with addictions, says the tactics video games use to keep people playing are similar to gambling games.

"All addictions are related to the internal release of dopamine, whether that's through an external drug, or through the excitement and positive and negative reinforcement of the game or the gambling," Turner said.

According to Turner, understanding if someone is addicted to video games is difficult to measure but if they involve online transactions, they can be easier to track. Gambling addiction, in which victims suffer similar effects as those who are addicted to video games, is defined when a person goes into debt.

Turner said someone who is getting addicted to video games would stop "engaging in other activities."

"If they neglect their schoolwork, that would be the first red flag," he said. "If they were, say, a hockey player, and they stopped playing hockey, or other extracurricular activity because they just want to play the game."

Turner said losing sleep over the game and spending hours engaged in it without taking breaks indicate there is a problem.

"They've become dependent on the excitement of that game and they'll feel they need the escape and the fantasy from that game," Turner said. "People will have withdrawal symptoms and they'll get upset and angry if that game is taken away from them."

Video game addiction became internationally recognized in 2019, when the World Health Organization listed "gaming disorder" as a behavioural addiction in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

And the issue made headlines when a group of Canadian parents launched class-action lawsuits against a prominent American software company over a popular game’s design, which the parents allege makes the game addictive for children.


Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, is facing two class-action lawsuits by Canadian parents.

A suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday by plaintiff A.B. alleges her son downloaded Fortnite in 2018 before developing a "dependence" on the game.

Epic Games told on Thursday in an email it will fight the “inflammatory allegations.”

"These claims do not reflect how Fortnite operates and ignore the ways parents can control their child’s experience," Candela Montero, a spokesperson with Epic Games said in the statement.

In the Vancouver lawsuit, the plaintiff's son allegedly spent "thousands of dollars" on in-game purchases, which were charged to her credit card without authorization.

According to Montero, Epic Games offers parental controls to monitor minors including limiting purchases.

"Social settings, like voice and text chat, default social settings to the highest privacy option for minors and Cabined Accounts provide a safe, tailored experience for younger players," Montero told "We have clear purchase flows, offer instant purchase cancellations and self-service returns and have a daily spending limit for players under 13."

The age of digital consent in Canada is 13 years old.

If approved by the court the Vancouver lawsuit would cover all persons affected by Fortnite in Canada except Quebec, where a separate suit was filed against Epic.

A 2019 suit was pushed forward by a Quebec judge deciding against Epic Games' appeal in February. This lawsuit was filed by three Quebec parents alleging the game's creators deliberately designed Fortnite Battle Royal to be "highly addictive."

Nicolas Perrault, a lawyer at Fasken Montreal, says it's too early to see if either suit will be successful because of the "hurdles to clear."

"Liability for marketing of potentially addictive products is a matter that's been previously litigated in Canada," Perrault said to CTV's Your Morning on Thursday. "Particularly in the context of class action against tobacco manufacturers."

However, Perrault says the lawsuits are the first time the suits would go forward against a video game developer on the basis the products are addictive. Top Stories

Local Spotlight