At least one segment of American video gamers isn’t just playing for fun; these “extreme” gamers are playing more than 45 hours per week, according to a new report from market research firm NPD. NPD surveyed more than 20,000 people aged 2 to 65 about their game-playing habits. Although these “extreme” gamers only make up a small percentage of America’s 174 million gamers — 3 percent, NPD says — that’s still more than 5 million players who are playing as much as they go to work or school. “Although Extreme Gamers are heavily involved with the industry, they represent a small portion of the potential market for any new game that comes to market,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst for NPD. Are people who play this much addicted to video games? So far, doctors have been reluctant to make that diagnosis. Last year, the American Medical Association rejected a measure to classify video-game playing as a formal addiction. Instead, it said that more research is needed. "There’s no science to support it," Dr. Stuart Gitlow, an addiction medicine specialist, told the Associated Press last year. The AMA’s reluctance, however, hasn’t prevented other researchers from studying it or recognizing obsessive video game playing as a potential problem. "We are seeing people, particularly 20-something and 30-something folks, who have what looks to be an addictive relationship with computer games … Whether that has been scientifically documented is up in the air," Jeff Georgi, clinical director of the Duke Addictions Program at Duke University told World News last year. "[But] behaviorally, it sure looks like it … It feels like an addiction to me, from a clinical point of view." In a similar vein, a rehab center in Illinois recently opened the only in-patient facility in the country that treats patients for Internet addiction. Researchers at Stanford University say that if you’re male, you might be more likely to become addicted to playing. In a small study released earlier this year, researchers at Stanford Medical School found that that reward centers of men’s brains were far more activated than those in women’s brains while playing a video game designed by the researchers.
To wit, 75 percent of those more extreme gamers in the NPD study are male, with the bulk of them — 79 percent — under the age of 35. It should be noted, however, that in terms of buying video games and video game equipment, such as consoles, men and women are nearly split down the middle. Nintendo specifically has tried to cater to women, notably soccer moms, with the widely popular Wii and its portable gaming system, the Nintendo DS. So what does this mean for those “extreme gamers?” They’ve got an awful lot of time on their hands to play “Halo 3.” –Ashley Phillips