Tolerance in Internet gaming disorder: A need for increasing gaming time or something else?

Daniel L. King, Madeleine C.E. Herd, Paul H. Delfabbro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Background and aims: The criterion of tolerance in DSM-5 Internet gaming disorder (IGD) refers to a need for increasing time spent gaming. However, this focus on "need for gaming time" may overlook some of the broader motivations, outcomes, or effects of gaming that underlie excessive play. This study aimed to explore regular and problematic gamers' experiences and perceptions of tolerance in IGD. Methods: An online survey of 630 adult gamers yielded 1,417 text responses to open-ended questions. A thematic analysis of 23,373 words was conducted to extract dominant themes. Results: Participants reported that they increasingly desired game items, status, or story progress as they became more involved or invested in games. As players develop higher standards of play in games, an increasing number of potential reward outcomes may have diminishing mood-modifying effects. None of the participants, including those with self-reported IGD, explicitly referred to a need for increasing time spent gaming. Discussion and conclusions: These results suggest that players may be motivated by preferences for specific goals or reinforcers in games rather than wanting an amount of time spent gaming. Thus, problematic gaming may involve a need for completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out. Further research is needed to determine whether these cognitive and motivational factors related to gaming stimuli should extend or replace the concept of tolerance in IGD or be considered as separate but related processes in disordered gaming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavioral Addictions
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Addiction
  • DSM-5
  • Gaming
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Motivation
  • Tolerance


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