The Line Between Esports and Gaming Addiction

Throughout my childhood, I was constantly busy trying to balance my schoolwork, softball practices, and my social life. When I had the odd day off though, I savored being able to just sit in front of my PlayStation 2 for the day playing various video games.

In my own experience, I was never questioned by my mom and dad if this type of activity was healthy, but I did witness my friends’ parents constantly monitoring their time spent gaming. As the popularity of esports – or organized competitive video gaming (Jenny et al., 2017) – has risen through the years, questions of appropriate screen time and fears of gaming addiction have become a societal debate.

During my Introduction to Esports course at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Seth Jenny has been teaching us content such as the history behind esports, skills associated with the profession, and different societal views of gaming. Esports can be defined as a type of sport that must be mediated by human-computer interfaces where the player exercises fine motor skills in a rule-based, electronic environment (Hedlund et al., 2020). Acquiring these skills takes training like any other type of sport, but rather than improving physicality with gross motor activities, esports requires players to spend copious amounts of time relatively sedentary in front of a screen.

Fears are thus raised about a term called Internet Gaming Disorder. Within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association characterized this disorder “by persistent gaming behavior, impaired control over gaming and functional impairment due to gaming usually for a period of at least 12 months” (as cited by Stevens et al., 2020, p. 1).

Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2023) include:

· Increasing amounts of time spent playing video games despite negative consequences

· Preoccupation with video gaming when away from it

· Not prioritizing life outside of gaming, and neglecting responsibilities

· Ignoring negative consequences of video gaming

· Lying to cover up time and money spent on video gaming

· Isolating oneself and withdrawing from activities that were previously enjoyed

· Irritability when trying to cut back on video gaming, or when away from gaming

So, when somebody’s career is being a professional video game (i.e., esports) player, how are some of these symptoms possible to avoid? Does this mean the esports profession is unhealthy to encourage others to join?

I think it is important to remember that employees becoming addicted to their work in any career field is not a new issue. If the term video gaming is removed from the symptoms list and is replaced by “work,” one could argue that esports as a whole should not be the target of the issue, but instead ensuring those involved in the profession are maintaining a proper work-life balance. In anything, moderation is key!

Király and colleagues (2017) sum this idea up nicely regarding policymaking of video game use:

Given that we now live in an entirely technology-based world, overpathologizing behaviors…that were unusual a few decades ago but have become parts of normal life today may be more harmful than beneficial for some individuals (p. 513).

While Internet Gaming Disorder could be erroneously associated with esports, I do not believe that the entire profession should suffer in response. Instead, players should be monitored by coaches and team managers like any other sport to avoid over-use and ensure that their mental and physical health is not declining.


Michelina Ponziani is a Junior Professional Writing and Integrated Marketing major from Jeannette, Pennsylvania at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. She is a student in Dr. Seth Jenny’s Introduction to Esports course in the Department of Exercise Science and Athletic Training.

References American Psychiatric Association (2023). Internet gaming.

Hedlund, D., Fried, G., & Smith, R. (2020). Esports business management. Human Kinetics.

Jenny, S., Manning, R. D., Keiper, M. C., & Olrich, T. W. (2017). Virtual(ly) athletes: Where eSports fit within the definition of “sport”. Quest, 69(1), 1-18.

Király, O., Griffiths, M. D., King, D. L., Lee, H.-K., Lee, S.-Y., Bányai, F., Zsila, Á., Takacs, Z. K., & Demetrovics, Z. (2017). Policy responses to problematic video game use: A systematic review of current measures and future possibilities. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7(3), 503–517.

Stevens, M. W. R., Dorstyn, D., Delfabbro, P. H., & King, D. L. (2020). Global prevalence of gaming disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 55(6), 553–568.

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Michelina Ponziani, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of

Pair this post with the following:

The Relation Between Esports/Gaming and Increased Sleep Disturbances by Danessa Allison

Teacher and Stress Reliever: From Sonic to Valorant by Joshua Peters

The Dangers of Energy Drink Sponsorship in Esports by Christian Durban

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