Video Game Addiction: Are video games like drugs? [Infographic]

Currently, the world of gaming is worth $66 billion on a global scale and it’s only going uphill from here. Video games are incredibly popular, as you may well know. Not only is it popular amongst teenagers, but it’s incredibly popular amongst people over 30 years old as well, both men and women!

However, this insane popularity of video games comes with the very real threat of misuse as well. Some are concerned that video games may be too distracting, or too addictive. In the following article and infographic I attempt to answer those concerns and explore how addictive video games really are.

Are video games like drugs? Check out this infographic and find out! (Click to enlarge the infographic)

video game addiction

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Who are the World’s Gamers?

We can explore the core demography of the world’s gamers by observing these simple facts:

  • 45% of all gamers are women, and the remaining 55% are men.
  • The average age of a video game player is 35 years.
  • According to the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health, 90% of all adolescents play or have played video games at some point in their lives. Out of those, 15% of the gamers display signs of being addicted.

The Origins of Addiction

“Computer Widow” was a term popularized in 1983. It referred to someone whose partner seemed to be more committed to a computer than they were to their relationship. Over the decades, the phenomenon of the “computer widow” has become so commonplace that now there are support groups available, such as On-Line Gamers Anonymous, that council couples through their addiction to video games.

DSM-IV has even included it in its study so that this phenomenon can be further researched. However, as of now, addiction to video games hasn’t been added to the list of mental illnesses.

Can you really be “Addicted” to Video Games?

According to the self-determination theory, video games can make players feel the following things — independent, competent, and socially engaged. Playing video games also enhances the level of dopamine that moves in your system. This is the chemical responsible for the reward and pleasure response in the brain, and it’s commonly associated with drug use.

A study conducted in 2009 found that most people engaged in video games as a form of escape, i.e., the same reason most people resort to hard drugs or alcohol abuse. In fact, those hooked to video games can get so preoccupied that they complete check out of all their real life interactions. They may start ignoring all social interactions, friends, family, etc. This leads to stunted emotional development.

What are some of the most Addictive Video Games?

A research conducted in 2010 by Thomas and Martin found that multi-player video games were more addictive than single-player video games. This is true because multi-player video games satisfy the player’s need for social interaction and acceptance.

Furthermore, a game would be more addictive if it involved the main character leveling up through challenges, as opposed to static character. This is true because leveling up and winning challenges would give the player a sense of personal accomplishment, which they may be lacking in their real lives. In addition to that, character growth in the virtual world often becomes a proxy for assumed growth in real life.

What Puts you at Risk of Being Addicted to Video Games?

  1. Lack of Personal Accomplishment: If an individual feels like they lack personal accomplishment in real life, they might supplement video game accomplishments as a means of filling that void. If the video game makes the player feel more accomplished than real life, they’re likely to get addicted to that sense of victory.
  2. Lack of Support from Parents: If a child feels neglected at home, then they might retreat into the world of video games where approval from characters or other players comes easily.
  3. Weak Academic Performance: Being weak in academics may lead to a sense of disappointment. This ties in with the first point wherein they might try to supplement that void by seeking accomplishments in the virtual world.
  4. Behavioral Problems at School: If a child acts out at school, it’s likely that they may be socially ostracized. This would again lead to them being addicted to video games to find that sense of community they lack in real life, while also channeling their anger and disappointment.
  5. Domestic Strife, including Divorce, Separation, etc: Divorce and other similar domestic problems often lead to the child feeling neglected and unloved. In this scenario, they often seek an escape from real life. Video games offer a shining easy escape into a world where they’re the center of the universe.
  6. Lack of Impulse Control: If a child is impulsive by nature, it’s likely that they would find the social mores of reality to be a constraint. Video games, in this case, offer an easy escape into a world where they don’t have to check their impulses.

How does Addiction Progress in Children?

A study conducted in Germany found that out of a sample size of 1217 4th graders, 1.3% of them showed signs of video game addiction. In addition to that, 2.65% of them were listed as “at risk” of addiction.

The average gaming time for fourth graders was 56 minutes per day. However, by the ninth grade, the average gaming time per day was found to be 207 minutes. It was found that the 4th graders who displayed signs of dependency on video games were likely to struggle with addiction in the coming years as well.

This research proved that addiction isn’t “just a phase”, but a serious problem that needed to be dealt with.

How to Prevent Addiction in Children?

  1. Keeping a strict check on how long kids can play video games, and resorting to confiscation if necessary.
  2. There are various factors for video game addiction. These underlying issues need to be spotted and addressed to prevent a relapse into dependency.

Extreme Cases of Video Game Addiction

2005: A south-koran embarked on a 50-hour long gaming marathon and died in the process.

2005: A gamer in Shanghai sold his friend’s virtual sword on eBay for $738. The virtual sword’s owner stabbed him to death and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

2009: Parents of a 17 year old boy confiscated his Halo 3, and the boy responded by shooting both of them. He was sent to prison for 23 years.

On the Bright Side…

Research suggests that if played in moderation, certain video games can even be beneficial.

A research conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that those who played Super Mario 64 for half-an-hour on a daily basis for about 2 months, really benefited from the exercise. Their right hippocampus, cerebellum, and right prefrontal cortex, all increased in size. These are the parts that help you with memory, muscle control, and strategizing.

So don’t give up on video games altogether. Just be smart about it and play in moderation.

Happy Gaming!

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_addiction

http://www.psychguides.com/guides/video-game-addiction-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

http://www.techaddiction.ca/why_are_video_games_addictive.html

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/video-game-addiction-no-fun

http://www.addictionrecov.org/Addictions/?AID=45

http://www.online-psychology-degrees.org/mobile-gaming-addiction/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201308/are-video-games-addictive

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/video-games-arent-addictive.html

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/video-game-addiction-compulsive-dangerous

https://addictionresource.com/addiction/video-game-addiction/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-video-game-addiction-met-20170529-story.html

http://luxury.rehabs.com/gaming-addiction/

http://www.addictinggames.com/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2016/11/29/huge-study-on-internet-gaming-addiction-turns-up-controversial-results/

http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html

https://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/02/electronic-entertainment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3832462/

https://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/01/12/what-makes-games-so-addictive/

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