Jack Kuo M.D. is an attending psychiatrist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California . He is also the staff psychiatrist for Promises, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment center in Malibu , California , and Portals, a downtown Los Angeles program helping the homeless mentally ill with substance abuse problems transition into independent living. He began working in the field of addictions as an outreach counselor for homeless teens and has won numerous awards and scholarships for his work from organizations including the California Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Association of Addictions Psychiatry, the National Institute for Drug Abuse, and the American Psychiatric Association. In 2004 he co-chaired a workshop at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting titled "Online Videogames: Psychopathological or Psychotherapeutic?" that examined the possible risks and potential benefits of online videogames. In 2005 he co-chaired a workshop at the APA Annual Meeting evaluating the evidence-based research on the use of videogames and virtual reality to help better diagnose, treat, and understand mental health disorders. An update of this workshop has been accepted for presentation at the 2006 APA Annual Meeting. At the 2005 Games, Learning, and Society Conference he did a presentation entitled “Exploring the Diagnosis and Treatment of Online Gaming Addiction” that interactively examined the understanding and treatment of this emerging issue.
Biological Mechanisms of Online Gaming Addiction
There is an upswing in the lay press’ representation of videogame playing as potentially addictive. Most often, the use of the term “addictive” raises the negative image of alcoholics and drug addicts. The stories range from the common (e.g. parents reporting that their son/daughter spends too much time playing videogames) versus the rare (e.g. life threatening consequences of unrelenting game play). Application of scientific principles to this issue may prove to be the most prudent response to the public raising of these concerns. For example, while there is no evidence of any positive benefit from alcoholism and drug addiction, videogames and videogame formats are being applied across a wide range of educational and clinical therapeutic activities. The goal of this presentation is to provide a scientifically-based, balanced assessment of the scientific understanding of addiction as applied to gaming. The presentation will open with an interactive discussion of the meaning of the term “addictive” for gamers as a way of exploring both the positive and negative connotations of this term both within the gaming community and society in general. The evidence-based research on the biological mechanisms of addiction will be systematically reviewed including the latest data from imaging studies and neurotransmitter research. The presenters will then propose some possible implications of this research for online gaming studies as a means of leading into a collaborative discussion with the audience on how a deeper understanding of the biological mechanisms of addiction might influence the gaming community from developers to academics.