Do you play video games for more than 2 hours a day?
Because according to the American Medical Association, you area heavy user and officially addicted on video games!
That doesn’t seem a lot for the majority of us that time may flash by in the blink of an eye for many.
Two hours of gaming certainly doesn’t equal an addict in my personal view. So let’s dig a little deeper…
What’s the Definition of a Gaming Addict?
To truly understand a gaming obsession, we need to know what it’s defined by.
It is a recent phenomena that has only in recent years attracted widespread debate. The research into it is therefore sketchy at best and is not even medically recognised at present.
The sensationalistic view that media has in the portrayal of video games in today is quite frankly, extremely biased, seizing any opportunity to brandish gamers as lazy, out of control fanatics. There is a pretty big scope between your casual gamer who loses track of time a little too much and your almost insomniatic, 20-hours a day gamer.
It’s best, therefore, to turn to what an addiction is generally.
NIDA describes an addiction as,
A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
That sounds a little bit sinister for just a couple of extra hours forgotten about playing on Call of Duty surely?
Avoiding the fact that gaming has many potential positives, what it means though is that gaming addiction is not based on how many hours you play, it’s a reflection on how it affects you personally.
The Effects Gaming Addiction
Do these describe you at all?
- Decreased social activity (deteriorating relationships, isolation)
- Worsening health conditions (obesity)
- Escapism (from real life problems)
- Preoccupation (struggle to think of anything else, irritable when not gaming, irritated by others when you do play)
- Desensitization (increase aggression, extreme mood-swings)
In other words, it needs to affect other aspects of your life for it to become an addiction. Check out this article for a more exhaustive list for children.
This view is completely misrepresented by many, who usually conclude that problems in gamers correlates with the amount of time played. And this is quite wrong.
So you may be wondering how exactly did you end up hooked?
Becoming Dependant On Gaming
The principle of addiction usually hinges on how dopamine levels increase during game play, which boost a pleasurable feeling associated with the reward centre of the brain, the ventral striatum. Whilst gaming, these dopamine levels can double.
Other designs that gaming obsession causes include:
- Their immersive nature, unlike passively watching a TV, requires a huge amount of input that engages the user. Time is lost amidst the challenges we face whilst gaming, from fighting terrorists to battling demons and everything in between.
- Game mechanics that entice us to keep playing. The variable rate of enforcement is often used to reward players with fun and useful in-game features, like extra skills and weapons. Those who put the most time into their game reap the best rewards. An addicted player enters a compulsion loop he or she can not leave, for fear of not improving further. World of Warcraft is a great example of this feature, a game often cited that many people get addicted to.
- Many of the effects mentioned previously though, are actually symptoms, rather than the causes, of excess video gaming. If your health deteriorates, you normally make the effect to try and get fit, rather than play video games. Underlying emotional issues, such as depression and social anxiety, cause people to turn to video games for a form of escapism.
Game companies want to get you addicted though, for good reason – subscription-based games (World of Warcraft) rely on unwavering gamer presence, people who play the game more will buy DLC and dedicated on line gamers create a better community that encourages others to play (and hence, buy the game)
Check out this article by a games researcher at Microsoft – they certainly want you hooked!
One Extreme To The Next
You might think you’re bad, but others have caused disasters elsewhere from the overuse of gaming.
Korea seems to be the most problematic of places, with the recent rapid growth of the internet compelling thousands of people to unbreakable habits of prolonged gaming sessions. One guy collapses and later died after a huge 50-hour long session, whilst another Korean couple were prosecuted after neglecting their baby, who died of malnutrition.
In a nutshell, it can happen to anyone, anywhere.
Video game addiction studies are scarce, but with cases likely to increase whilst more people get on line, this could well change in the future.
The first video game addiction clinic was opened in the Netherlands was opened back in 2005, as more people are being treated with it.
Whether the whole saga is being totally exasperated is still very much up for debate. A study back in 2011 concluded that almost 1 in 10 children in a Singapore school of 3000, yet this has been rebutted by experts, who question the data accuracy and that the rise of gamers dependant on games would coincide with more clinics.
A Skeptical Scenario
It certainly seems that on line play is where most of the problems occur. When you’re in a constant battle against the world to be better than everyone else, it really is no wonder people get obsessed.
But there will always be a minority that takes things to the extreme and this should never characterise a whole community of gamers.
We’re not even sure if gaming addiction even exists. The founder of the clinic in the Netherlands has even stated that the excessive use of gamers signal problems elsewhere – that they are a symptom, not a cause .
Though it basically boils down to this – no one can really be sure. There’s nothing conclusive to state whether it’s all hot air or whether we should be taking these like any other form of obsession.
So as you may well heard of,
Moderation is key
With that, you can not go wrong!