Video Game Addiction
Anyone who has experienced it knows it all too well, video game addiction is real. Although it is not been recognized officially as a diagnosable disorder by the AMA, there is evidence of people of all ages especially preteens and teens are facing sometimes severe consequences associated with compulsive use of video and PC games.
Video games are becoming increasingly complex, detailed and compelling to a growing international audience of players. With better graphics, more realistic characters and greater strategic challenges, it's not surprising that some teams (see The 15 Richest Online Gamers in The World) would rather play a video game that hang out with their friends, play sports or even watch television. Not all gamers are addicts as some can play a few hours a week successfully balancing all other activities. But for some gaming has become an uncontrollable compulsion studies estimate that 10 to 15% of gamers exhibit signs that meet the WHO criteria for addiction. Just like gambling and any other compulsive behavior, teens can become so enthralled in the fantasy world of gaming that they neglect their family, friends, work and school.
If you know someone who show signs of computer or video game addiction there are some resources that will help you assess whether the gaming has gone from an entertaining pastime to a full-blown obsession. (About video game addiction find out more here)
What makes a game addictive? As with any addiction video gaming is usually a multifaceted issue. The game designers look for ways to make their games more interesting and increase the amount of time people will spend playing them. They want you, once you login, or pick up that controller, to never stop playing. Consequently games are designed to be just difficult enough to be truly challenging, while allowing players to achieve small accomplishments that compel them to keep playing. It's the same design of gambling casinos which allow players to have small winds that keep them playing. There are several hooks that are built into games with the intent of making them addictive.
The high score - one trying to beat the high score can keep a player playing for hours. Beating the game - the desire to beat the game is fed as a player levels up finds the next hidden clue. Role-playing - role-playing games allow players to actually create the characters in the game and embark on an adventure that somewhat unique to that character. It creates an emotional attachment in the story makes it much harder to stop playing. Discovery - exploration or discovery is used in role-playing games. A portion of the game is spent exploring imaginary worlds and there is a thrill of discovery.
Relationships - gaming allows people to build relationships with other players and it becomes an online community.
In a 2005 study it was found that dopamine levels in players brains doubled while they were playing. Dopamine is a mood-regulating hormone associated with feelings of pleasure. The findings of this study indicate that gaming could actually be chemically addictive. The combination of intentional programming by designers and the predisposition some teens how to addictive behavior means this is a real issue that parents, teachers and friends should be aware of and take actions to prevent.