Videogame Use and Abuse

Contents provided by: Community Health Promotion Services (CHPS) Child & Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health & Psychiatry Program

Simplified version of the contents on this page is available as a handout.


  • Competitive gaming #1 billion in revenue in 2021
  • $1.8 billion in 2022
  • Popular

2021 Canadian Video Game Industry

  • 32,300 full time employees
  • Average salary of $78,600 ($60,400 starting)
  • 5.5 billion

Videogame Types and Design

1 Person Games
  • Requires a console or computer only.
  • No internet needed.
  • Example: Tetris, Pac-man, Candy Crush.
  • Quite below average risk for abuse/disorder
Real Time Strategy Games
  • Competitive
  • Resource gathering/resource building game
  • Buying resources
  • Examples: Star wars, Age of empires
  • Above average risk for abuse/disorder
Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)
  • 100s or 1000s (or more) play together
  • Need internet
  • On-going virtual “world”
  • Compete and interact
  • Reach goals with others (work together)
  • Need to put in hours of time
  • Examples: Tera Rising, Final Fantasy XIV
  • Very much above average risk for abuse/disordered use
Role Playing Games
  • On-going, a preset virtual world with 1000s/millions of players
  • build up characters’  experiences, abilities, and $
  • adventures, try interactions, and progress
  • Examples: World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
  • Very much above average risk for abuse/disordered use
First Person Shooter Games (FPS or Shooter)
  • Individual or team
  • Themed around competitive goals (build an empire, win wars)
  • Fast
  • World on-going as long as team member(s) are still in the game
  • May not be okay to leave the game
  • Examples : Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto
  • Above average risk for abuse/disordered use
Life Simulators
  • Can be played in many ways
  • Can be on-going
  • Not competitive
  • Creative and social – create characters, places, activities, etc.
  • Player-set goals
  • The player controls all the details of looks and actions
  • Examples: The Sims, Second Life
Social and Casual Games
  • Online
  • Played on social media
  • Casual, multi-player, take a turn
  • Simple rules, less commitment
  • Can play any time/not often
  • Few controls, little learning needed
  • Examples: Candy Crush, Minecraft
  • Below average risk for abuse/disordered use
Gaming and Gambling
  • Mini-games in games
  • Social casino games
  • Skins betting
  • Loot boxes


  • Early Childhood
  • Everyone
  • Everyone 10+
  • Teen
  • Mature
  • Adults only
  • Rating pending

Two different issues:

Too much play might look like:

Benefits of play

  • Pain management
  • Social connection
  • Understand stories
  • Fine motor skills
  • Cognitive development
  • Fun
  • Improved social skills – collaboration, strategy, team play
  • Stress and anger management
  • Flow state
  • Language skills
  • Next?

Taking a balanced approach

Effective Interventions

  • Limit type/duration
  • Play AFTER work is done
  • Social skills on/offline
  • Social activity on/offline
  • Increase physical activity
  • Know your child’s friends
  • Monitor play
  • Monitor bullying
  • Monitor grades
  • Put the wifi on a timer (ie. Ends at 10 pm)
  • Ask questions/start conversations

Media Smarts/American Academy of Pediatrics

  • No screens in bedrooms
  • Screen time – dessert/reward
  • Set a media time limit and stick to it
  • Limit screen time to less than 1 – 2 hours per day
  • View programs/games together and discuss values
  • Choose games that model good interpersonal skills
  • View age-appropriate content
  • Control video screens – gaming console in public area
  • Set family viewing time
  • Pay attention to family’s media use:

How to start the conversation

  • What game(s) are you playing?
  • What do you like most about that game?
  • What do you like least about that game?
  • Who do you play with?
  • Do you know them personally or just through the game?
  • Do you have a role with your online friends in the game?
  • If you don’t play, do your online friends get mad at you?
  • Do you think the time you play is not enough or too much?
  • What similarities and differences are there between online and offline worlds?
  • What kind of lessons do you learn from gaming that you can use offline?
  • Where do you see gaming taking you in life?

Guiding Questions

Cut down – Have you ever felt you should cut down on playing?

Annoyed – Have you been annoyed by people’s comments about your playing?

Guilty – Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your playing time?

Eye opener – Do you think about playing when you are not playing?


Online Resources

Tech Addiction – Effective Help for Videogame and Computer Addiction Website
Media Smarts – Canada’s Centre for Digital And Media Literacy
Healthy Children – American Academy of Pediatrics – Family media use plan

Youth Substance Use & Mental Health Services Calgary

Walk-in hours M, W, and F 8:15 am – 11:00 am
Youth and parents
1005 17 St SW

Access Mental Health

Addiction and Mental Health Information and Referral Phone number
M-F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Interpretation available

A simplified version of the contents on this page is available as a handout. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Disclaimer: This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an “as is”, and “where is” basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied, or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability, or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials and for any claims, actions, demands, or suits arising from such use.  Last updated September 2023.