If you play computer games all day are you addicted?

A man accused of being addicted to computer games appeared on the KBS TV show Hello Counsellor (ep 333). His wife says he’s been into games for 10 years and is now obsessed. He’s constantly checking for new games and has 5 different devices – smart phones, tablets etc. – to play them on!

hello counsellor333

presenter Lee Young Ja sits with the wife of the ‘games addict’ 

He plays games ALL DAY LONG – from the moment he wakes up. He plays WHILE he’s getting washed and dressed, when he’s eating with the family, and even in the car. But when the panel asks him if he thinks he has a problem he says NO. Because ‘everyone plays computer games, don’t they?‘ He looks around the audience for confirmation. But he’s met with a cold response! ‘We don’t play to that extent‘, someone says.

hello counsellor

‘It’s not a problem at all’ husband tells the panel

But where is the line between addiction and ‘just relaxing’?

As the discussion continues it becomes clear that the dad would rather play games than spend time with his wife and daughter. His young daughter tearfully says she wishes he’d go outside and play with her instead.

He seems to have no interaction with other people either – even when he visits his in-laws he can barely look up from the screen to say hello. And so the panel see that he is addicted.

hellocounsellor gamesaddiction

a guest panelist, well known actor Kim Eung Soo, gets upset when he hears about the husband’s lack of respect towards his in-laws.


153 members of the audience vote that this is a problem. That’s a high score and all the celebrities agree. The husband promises to cut down on his game playing to 2 hours a day so that he can spend quality time with his family. (Two hours still sounds like a lot but then I don’t play games at all) But his wife doesn’t believe that he can do it.

culture question


This dad says everyone plays computer games and apparently more than half of the people in Korea play games online regularly. Surveys focus on children and estimate that 10% of children are addicted to games. But surely it’s more than that by now. There doesn’t seem to be much research on adults and game addiction.


Even WATCHING OTHERS play games is a big thing here. To me, that’s as odd as the other popular online activity of watching other people EATING. (gaming and meokbang (eating show) are two of the most popular categories on the Korean streaming site Afreeca TV)

The growth of Esports started here after the 1997 economic crash when people lost their jobs and had time on their hands. Internet broadband networks were developing too. A perfect environment for Esports.

So now there are Esport TV networks and a government department KeSPA (part of the Ministry of Culture) in charge of overseeing Esports. Korea built the first stadium in the world dedicated to Esports which opened in 2005. A new one opened in 2016 which has six floors and took seven years to build.


Professional gamers can become celebrities and attract large audiences.  Overwatch is a game that has mostly female fans in Korea. The professionals live and train together and get looked after by housekeepers who cook for them. And they play so much that they can suffer from repetitive strain injury.

But according to a doctor interviewed in a documentary about a gaming rehab clinic in Seoul (which involves some sort of magnetic shock therapy!) the professionals are NOT ADDICTED.


Yes. The doctor said the brain scan of a professional gamer is different to the brain of a gaming addict. This is because the reasons for playing games are different. The pro is working towards a goal – training to improve skills to win a game, so the brain is normal. The addict is playing for instant gratification and to fill a need or relieve stress, so this can negatively affect normal brain activity.

So it seems that the amount of time spent playing the game is not the problem. The problem is the reason why you are playing. The father in the TV show is addicted because he is using the game to relieve stress and avoid real life. And this is having a negative affect on his life and relationships and probably psychological state of mind. The professionals play for hours simply to practise. And like all sportspeople they have to train a lot.


That seems pretty cut and dried. But we could get through life without playing computer games. On the other hand, using mobile phones and the internet have become part of everyday life.

Even I can use a smartphone and the Korean messaging service Kakaotalk.

Statistics show that 8 out of 10 people are addicted to using KakaoTalk maybe not surprising when 99% of people in Korea are on the internet. Looking around it seems like everyone is texting all the time. And no wonder, since it’s common to join up to 20 different groups on Kakaotalk – school friends, church members, coworkers, mums, sport teams, … the list of people to converse with via text is endless. I asked a housewife in her 40s how many messages she reads and sends a day and she said it was too many to count – over 100.

I don’t know if it’s as intense as this in Britain. Is it? (A student once asked me what it was like in the old days when people didn’t have mobile phones! I wrote about those days here. Yes I am that old)



Here are some of the questions from the survey on smartphone addiction from the Korean Internet Addiction Prevention Centre. But I think the questions work just as well for games. If you answer YES to all the following questions you may have a problem…

  1. My school grades / work productivity dropped due to excessive internet use.
  2. I have tried to cut back the time I spend on using a smartphone but failed.
  3. Using a smartphone is more enjoyable than spending time with family or friends.
  4. I feel stress without my smartphone.
  5. When I am without a smartphone, I cannot focus on my work.

I answered NO to all of the above. Phew. I am not addicted. How about you?

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