An Overview of Structural Characteristics in Problematic Video Game Playing (2017)

Curr Addict Rep. 2017;4(3):272-283. doi: 10.1007/s40429-017-0162-y.

Griffiths MD1, Nuyens F1.



There are many different factors involved in how and why people develop problems with video game playing. One such set of factors concerns the structural characteristics of video games (i.e., the structure, elements, and components of the video games themselves). Much of the research examining the structural characteristics of video games was initially based on research and theorizing from the gambling studies field. The present review briefly overviews the key papers in the field to date.


The paper examines a number of areas including (i) similarities in structural characteristics of gambling and video gaming, (ii) structural characteristics in video games, (iii) narrative and flow in video games, (iv) structural characteristic taxonomies for video games, and (v) video game structural characteristics and game design ethics. Many of the studies carried out to date are small-scale, and comprise self-selected convenience samples (typically using self-report surveys or non-ecologically valid laboratory experiments).


Based on the small amount of empirical data, it appears that structural features that take a long time to achieve in-game are the ones most associated with problematic video game play (e.g., earning experience points, managing in-game resources, mastering the video game, getting 100% in-game). The study of video games from a structural characteristic perspective is of benefit to many different stakeholders including academic researchers, video game players, and video game designers, as well as those interested in prevention and policymaking by making the games more socially responsible. It is important that researchers understand and recognize the psycho-social effects and impacts that the structural characteristics of video games can have on players, both positive and negative.


Gambling addiction; Gaming addiction; Internet gaming disorder; Problematic gaming; Structural characteristics

PMID: 28845381

PMCID: PMC5554268

DOI: 10.1007/s40429-017-0162-y