The issue of gaming addiction has come to the fore once again.

First, the news of a 14-year-old boy who killed his father by stabbing him in the neck with a fruit knife. It was reported that he was diagnosed with Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD).

During court proceedings, it was also revealed that the boy started to harbour thoughts of killing his father after his father restricted his access to computer games. 

Now, what might IGD be? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), an addiction to gaming must cause “significant impairment or distress in several aspects of a person’s life”. 

Locally, the National Addictions Management Service says gaming becomes an addiction when one spends so much time on it that it affects daily life. 

It’s worth noting that anecdotal evidence from counsellors shows that gaming addiction in general has been on the rise among children in Singapore since the pandemic started.

As someone who recently started a ministry aiming to bridge the world of video games and the Church, concerns over the influence video games have on our youth inevitably come my way.

For instance, I was asked to give a talk last year about violence in video games in response to the (unfounded) rumour that the boy implicated in the River Valley High murder was addicted to video games.

So, what are we to make of these latest developments? Are video games really that addictive? And how worried should we be about their negative impact on young people today?


Allow me to speak from experience: There have been times in my life when I was addicted to gaming because of bad things happening in my life.

If I couldn’t play video games, I’d find something else to distract me from my problems. Things like billiards, anime, books or even pornography. 

But it would be irresponsible of me to say that video games in and of themselves have no addictive qualities.

Let me just add here: When it comes to gaming, things were better in the past.

Game pricing followed a one-off model. You buy the game once, you play it, you finish it. And that’s it. 

Because the consumer was only going to pay for the game once, video game publishers were only incentivised to make their game, well, fun.

How long you played the game for didn’t matter that much to them. You could play it for 1 hour or 1000 hours. You paid the same amount of money. 


However, with the advent of microtransactions in video games, publishers now have an incentive to get players hooked on their game for as long as possible.

Why? Because the longer a person plays their game, the more likely it is for that person to purchase things like skins, special power-ups or loot boxes. 

Speaking of loot boxes, to me, this one of two real reasons why modern video games can be addictive.

Also known as the “gacha” mechanic, you buy (with in-game or real money) packages with a random benefit (cosmetic or power-up, for example).

The key word here is “random”. This mechanic is designed to mirror that of slot machines in casinos, and science has proven that slot machines are highly addictive. 

The other real danger is the social nature of online video games.

This fits into the wider conversation that society is finally having about the negative impact social media has on our youths.

Video game publishers know that if a player finds some sort of online community in-game, the chances of him playing the game in the long run increases dramatically.

This is not always a bad thing. Community is a good thing. But the nature of the community is important. It can either be positive or toxic.

Furthermore, and this is really me speaking from experience, the desire to prove or validate oneself through video games is real for many young people who perhaps don’t find these needs met in real life.

I struggled with validation issues growing up, and being good at gaming allowed me to get the “pat on the back” online that I felt I didn’t get in real life. 

Addiction is an imbalance issue. It’s when one thing in a person’s life, even a good thing, overwhelms all others.

It’s worth noting that loot boxes, toxic gaming communities and the opportunity to become a star in-game are relatively new developments made possible by the Internet. 

The Internet took the world by surprise. I believe it represents and catalysed the biggest technological and sociological leap in human history.

And we’re only just now coming to terms with how it really effects us as human beings. 


What about single player games? Thankfully, their monetisation model hasn’t changed much from before.

But does that mean a person can’t get addicted to them? Of course not. But they aren’t as addictive by design as online games are. 

You have people who are addicted to books. Work. Coffee. Alcohol. Sugar. Exercise. Studying. The applause of men. Earning money. Single player or multiplayer games.

Some of these things are more socially acceptable than others. But all addictions are inherently bad.

At its core, addiction is an imbalance issue. It’s when one thing in a person’s life, even a good thing, overwhelms all others.

After all, we are made to be holistic beings. 


As holistic beings then, a sign to look out for when someone might be addicted to games is when a person only wants to play games at the expense of other activities. 

I believe that God not only calls us to be holy, but holistic as well. We have mental, physical, spiritual and social needs that need to be considered together, and not apart. 

James, the brother of Jesus, said this: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16). 

I don’t know about you, but I find that really comforting. God cares for our whole being. And He wants us to care for other’s (and even our own) whole being as well. 


In light of all this, what are some practical tips then, for helping gamers ensure that gaming doesn’t take over the rest of their lives? Here are three tips. 

1. Have a specific time of the day for play

Set boundaries for yourself as a gamer and/or negotiate a reasonable duration for play with your child if you’re a parent.

Keeping your boundaries and/or including your child in the discussion provides a sense of agency (the same sense of agency that one might feel a lack of in real life, one some gamers try to meet through gaming!).

Having a specific time of the day also helps with fitting gaming in as part of other routines, like personal hygiene, sleep and studies.

2. Be part of the conversation

As I mentioned above, not all gaming is the same.

Unfortunately, it’s going to get harder and harder to avoid playing games with loot boxes and microtransactions.

So it’s important for a parent (or a friend) to show genuine interest in what games the gamer is playing.

I believe that when a real-life person shows interest in what a gamer is playing, the urge to seek community and validation through the game decreases.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but when you validate a gamer’s hobby this way, you build trust and you actually meet some of her needs for validation in the first place.

Also, you’ll have to be in conversation with the gamer to know whether or not she’s a healthy or unhealthy gamer in the first place. 

3. Suggest or provide other activities that meet the needs gamers try to fulfil through games

Some of these needs might be community and healthy competition, for example. 

These needs might be met through sports, fresh experiences or making new friends.

Finding alternative things to do in land-scarce Singapore might seem challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible.

It is crucial for us to be the master of our passions, and not the other way round.

Remember: Jesus didn’t say that money was bad. He said the love of money, and allowing it to be your master, is bad.

The same applies to gaming. Gaming in and of itself isn’t bad. Being mastered by gaming is. 

And it all boils down to who your real Master is, because you can’t serve two masters.

How can we show our young people (and ourselves, if you’re a gamer) how wonderful, amazing and life-giving it is to have Jesus as your Master?

How can we show gamers that Jesus calls us to join Him in the ultimate adventure: Saving the world through the Gospel? 

St. Augustine once said that we all have a “God-shaped” hole in our hearts. Indeed, we try and fail to fill that hole with… stuff. Stuff like material things and the applause of men.

We need to acknowledge, together, that we’ve all made this mistake at times in our lives. Gamer or non-gamer.

Since we all have have this sin in common, why don’t we drop the labels (gamer/non-gamer/addict) and journey together to fill the God-shaped hole in our lives with the only thing that can fill it: God Himself?

  1. What’s your primary form of entertainment or leisure?
  2. How would you know if you’re addicted?
  3. Based on the article, what is one practical step you can take to enjoy your passions healthily and holistically?