When I was gaming online with friends, it could take hours. Sometimes the sun was rising by the time we finally went to bed.


Did you know this?

Gaming is more common among males than among females. 10% of young adults meet up with friends online at least once a week to play games. Most young people do this without problems, as a hobby or a fun way to relax. However, for 3% of the Belgian population aged 18 and over, gaming becomes problematic, which manifests itself in neglecting other activities such as studies, personal hygiene and friendships. This mainly affects males.

Why people like gaming

There are several reasons why people of all ages love games:

  • Games are challenging. They are full of riddles, puzzles and obstacles. Games are competitive and rewarding. The points, virtual coins or accessories you earn reinforce the competitive nature of games.
  • Games and friendships go well together. Games can be played together with family, friends or even strangers. You don't have to be in the same room: you can just chat or video call each other while gaming.
  • Games allow you to escape for a while. By stepping into a virtual game world, you can forget your worries and think about nothing else for a while.
  • Games allow you to experiment. You can try out things that are impossible in everyday life or test how others react to what you do.

The positive and negative effects of gaming

Positive effects

Games can help you refine specific skills, such as problem-solving, reaction time, spatial and strategic awareness and even social skills. In many games you need the help of others to progress, so you learn to cooperate, which can also be useful in real life.

Negative effects

Gaming can have negative effects too. Gamers often sit for long periods of time in front of a screen, in one and the same position. This can lead to reduced fitness levels, shoulder, neck or back pain, wrist or finger pain, headaches, eye complaints, an unhealthy diet and sleep disorders, such as poor sleep quality and shorter sleep duration.

When does gaming become problematic?

Most young people play games without any problems, as a hobby or a fun way to relax. It becomes risky or problematic when you start neglecting other activities such as your studies, your personal hygiene or social contacts.

Problematic gaming behaviour does not equal a gaming addiction. Symptoms that may point to a gaming addiction include:

  • You spend virtually all of your free time gaming.
  • You increasingly isolate yourself in order to be able to play uninterruptedly.
  • Gaming is the only thing you can think about. You constantly think about games you have played previously or games you can play next.
  • When you are unable to play you become anxious, irritable or moody.
  • You neglect your friends, family, studies and hobbies.
  • You start blurring the boundaries between day and night, resulting in fatigue.
  • Self-care also becomes less important.
  • You struggle to stick to the agreements made about your gaming behaviour. Attempts to stop you from gaming fail.
  • You minimise or deny, both to yourself and others, the true amount of time you spend gaming.

An addiction presupposes that the compulsive gaming behaviour persists for a long time together with clear signs such as neglecting yourself, your hobbies, your work or studies, ignoring your day and night rhythm and not having three full meals a day.

Test yourself

Do you regularly play games and do you want to check whether your gaming behaviour is becoming risky? Go to Druglijn.be, where you can do a self-test about your gaming behaviour. You will be given specific advice in line with your score.

I am glad that I discussed my gaming behaviour with my parents. Now we can look for solutions together. I still occasionally play games, but they are no longer more important than real life.


Talk about it and seek help

Do you spend too much time gaming? A lot of people are ashamed and find excuses for their gaming behaviour. However, gaming addiction is nothing to be ashamed of, it can happen to anybody. If you are worried, try to open up and start a conversation. Talk to somebody you trust and feel good around, preferably someone you know, like a good friend, your parents or siblings. This can bring relief and help you sort things out. You can also find help together.

If you struggle to talk to someone in your close surroundings, try to approach a person who is familiar with similar experiences, such as a GP or a student advisor at your college or university.

If you prefer to share your story anonymously, contact Awel (102 or via www.awel.be), Tele-Onthaal (106 or via www.teleonthaal.be) and the Zelfmoordlijn (1813) for dark thoughts or questions about suicidal thoughts.

Tackling gaming

If you want to stop or reduce your gaming behaviour, you can also find help in online programmes. Druglijn can answer all your questions about gaming and gambling. The website also includes self-tests and self-help modules.

Seek help

Do you feel that you can't manage on your own? Then it is important to get professional help. You can contact a counsellor who specialises in addiction, for example. More information can be obtained anonymously from Druglijn or directly from your doctor.

Multiple types of assistance and help are available, yet there is no single magical method that will solve all your problems at once. Practically all types of help have a couple of workable elements in common, such as:

- enhancing your motivation to quit or fit gaming into your everyday life without disrupting it
- teaching you to identify risky situations
- enhancing your self-confidence, for example by emphasising your abilities and skills

Worried about a friend?

Have you noticed that a friend is spending too much time gaming and that this is interfering with their everyday life? Then you may not know what to say or do.

Talk about it and share your concerns without judging them.

Keen to learn, read and hear more about this topic?


  • Mediawijs, the Flemish Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, features a case file on gaming. (Dutch)
  • VAD (Vlaams Expertisecentrum Alcohol en andere drugs) is the Flemish expertise centre for alcohol and other drugs. Here you can find relevant info on alcohol, illegal drugs, psychoactive drugs, gaming and gambling, including a fact sheet on gaming: the extent and impact of gaming in Belgium (2020) (Dutch only).
  • Druglijn.be lends a listening ear and offers a self-test to check how risky your gaming behaviour is, followed by some initial advice on how to tackle the situation.
  • Reboot Camp stimulates young people aged 15 to 18 years who engage in risky or problematic gaming to look for hobbies other than gaming, together with their peers.