Internet gaming disorder (IGD), defined as “Persistent and recurrent use of the Internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress,” is a condition for further study in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, and research publications in gaming and internet addiction have increased rapidly in the last decade. Its precise definition continues to generate considerable controversy and a multitude of measuring tools. Significant overlap in the neurobiology underlying both behavioral addictions and substance use disorders have been found in animal models and human brain imaging studies, starting with Gambling Disorder, which entered the DSM-III in 1980, and, as starting points for studying this phenomenon, the criteria for diagnosing IGD have been derived from different facets of Gambling Disorder, Substance Use Disorder, Impulse Control Disorders, and the developing field of Internet Addiction. Given rapid expansion of internet use and gaming technology over the past 20 years, a review of available prevalence measurements could potentially allow for detection of an epidemiological trajectory for this disorder.
Prior to IGD being listed as a Condition for Further Study in the DSM-5, the terminology for the phenomenon of excessive online gaming was not standardized, with nomenclature varying from problematic online gaming, pathological gaming, gaming addiction, excessive gaming, gaming use disorder, videogame addiction, videogame dependency to conflations with internet addiction, internet use disorder, pathological internet use, problematic internet use, technology use disorder, pathological technology use, to compulsive internet use. In this paper, we take an agnostic approach to the specific criteria being used to measure this phenomenon, and are interested in whether the reported prevalence of this disorder has changed with time, given the rapidly expanding access to internet games, and the exponential growth of publications in the area of psychopathology related to technology. To this end, we have undertaken a targeted review of the literature regarding the prevalence of Internet Gaming Disorder in any population, organized in a linear manner spanning the emergence of the earliest publications regarding gaming addiction in the 1990s, through the end of 2016.