With the growth of the gaming industry, such as video games and computer and internet games, much is speculated about the influence of such games on the player’s behavior, and there is debate about the addictive potential of the game. In general, we can classify these games as a type of media that is consistent with current events; are activities that increasingly rely on technological advances, have a well developed aesthetic of their own, enable new types of face-to-face or virtual interaction, and offer a contingency of speed between stimulus and response. In addition, they present a great diversity, from games that require eminently sensory-motor activity, to those that require of the player great strategic capacity and understanding of rules. The presence of electronic games is increasingly frequent in leisure activities, in the development of skills and in didactic activities. In addition, the phenomenon of electronic games has a close relationship with the use of the Internet, since a large part of existing games can be practiced by this route.
The excessive use of video games and computer games and internet, henceforth called electronic games, is a behavior that has been studied under the prism of addictive behaviors, such as pathological gambling, demonstrating similarities with drug addiction. The present research had as objective to investigate the practice of these electronic games (excluding games of chance) and possible consequences of this habit among Brazilian university students.
In a study conducted on an emerging student addiction in the 1980s, Soper and Miller1 argued that electronic games are potentially addictive and quite distinct from any other behavioral addiction. Aiming to study the use of video games in school-age children, Phillips and Griffiths2 observed a significant difference in gender: boys were 1.4 times more likely to admit that they played than girls; played more time per session, more times a week, and assumed more that they did not do homework to play. Seven and a half percent of the children who participated in the study had problems related to gambling. The authors questioned whether this profile would persist after adolescence and whether there would be a relationship with other addictive behaviors. Griffiths and Hunts3 conducted a survey of 387 American adolescents aged 12 to 16 years using a scale adapted to the diagnosis of pathological gambling in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R), aiming to estimate the prevalence of gambling addiction computer. Analysis of the results indicated that 19.9% of the sample met addiction criteria and reported having started to play significantly earlier than the rest of the sample. In addition, it was reported that boys play more than girls and that they are more likely to be classified as dependent of Mafa games. Aiming at a clear and precise instrument to investigate problems related to excessive use of electronic games, Salguero and Morán4 proposed the Problem Video Game Playing (PVP) scale, elaborated from a review of the diagnostic criteria for drug addiction and for pathological gambling of the DSM- IV. Through a factorial analysis, they verified that the 9 items of the PVP scale measured a single construct and that high scores on the scale were correlated with high game frequency; high average time played; longer played in a single session; perception of the participant and his or her family members regarding a possible excessive use of electronic games; in addition to high score in Severity of Dependence Scale. The authors concluded that excessive gambling is associated with a number of factors reminiscent of dependency syndrome.
Another important issue that has attracted attention is the possible relationship between electronic games and violence. It discusses the influence of electronic games on the behavior of the player, questioning the probability of games with violent themes inducing their users to emit violent behavior. Literature reviews indicate divergent results. Some scholars argue that video games with violent content are related to an increase in violent behaviors, thoughts and affections, an increase in physiological excitement and a decrease in pro-social behavior. Others point to the fact that the assumption that games with violent content lead to violent behavior may be based on the idea that, in playing, the individual identifies with the character, freeing himself from the social ties that prevented him from entering in a wild state of violence. Other authors, in turn, hypothesize that the practice of electronic games would be a way of escape from aggressive thoughts and behaviors. However, there are those who support the thesis that violent play may not have a direct consequence on the aggressiveness of the player, but may provoke hostility.