Just One More – Gaming Addictions

Just One More – Gaming Addictions

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A guest post by, Robert Settle

Sometimes when I’ve found myself playing a video game for several hours longer than I had intended, I often ask myself these questions: Why are some video games made to be so addictive? What is it we find so addictive about these games? What impact does our video gaming addictions have?



World of Warcraft: The most addictive game of all time?


What is meant by Gaming Addiction?

Most of us wouldn’t consider our gaming antics to be an addiction, however lets have a look at the definition of addiction:

“Physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.”

In this sense the euphoria of playing games would be the ‘substance’ that we can become dependent upon. At what point would we become dependent on playing video games?

Professor Mark Griffiths, a Chartered Psychologist and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, has extensively researched addictive behaviour. In his opinion these were the core components of gaming addiction:

  1. Salience
    Gaming becomes the most important activity in a person’s life, and dominates their thinking, feelings and behaviour. Even if the person is not gaming, they will be thinking about the next time they can play
  2. Mood modification
    This refers to the subjective experiences someone feels through gaming, eg a buzz, a high or a sense of escape
  3. Tolerance
    The amount of game-playing has to be increased, for the person to get that mood-modifying ‘buzz’ or ‘high’
  4. Withdrawal symptoms
    These can be unpleasant emotions or physical effects, that are experienced by the person when game-play is stopped or reduced e.g. the shakes, moodiness and irritability.
  5. Conflict
    This can take place in the form of conflict between the gamer and the people around them, conflicts with their job, school life, social life or other interests, and conflict within themselves
  6. Relapse
    The tendency for old game-playing patterns to return after a period of abstinence or control

‘Does Internet and Computer “Addiction” Exist?  Some Case Study Evidence’, CyberPsychology & Behaviour

I think that most people reading this article will have experienced at least a couple of the symptoms described above. Despite how widespread video games have become, video game addiction is still not currently recognised as a psychological disorder in most countries unlike other addictions such as alcoholism or drug addiction.


Why are games so addictive?

It is in the interest of game companies for us to continue playing the games that they create. Many of the popular MMO or MOBA PC games are distributed using the freemium model. This is where the game is given away for free, but the gamers are then encouraged to spend their money on various enhancements to give themselves an advantage within the game. This has proven to be a very successful model that will likely become commonplace on the next-gen consoles.



League of Legends has become a prime example of the Freemium model.


The continued income from purchased items also acts as an incentive for the developers to release incremental updates for their games. On consoles this often comes in the form of Downloadable Content (DLC) which usually includes extra levels/maps.

If we were no longer playing their games then we would have no reason to purchase this additional content. It is for this reason that many developers aim to make their games as sticky as possible to ensure a steady income. Multiplayer games tend to offer the most stickiness through the unpredictability of playing other players. This helps to keep the games fresh and exciting.

Many of these multiplayer games include some form of leveling / experience based system whereby you are encouraged to continue playing the game to unlock additional weapons or other similar benefits.

In the original World of Warcraft the highest level you could reach was level 60. This has been continuously increased with each successive expansion. The latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria raised the maximum to level 90. Moving the goalposts in this way helps to attract the return of those who felt there was nothing more to accomplish within the game and at the same time it sets a new target for everyone to strive for.


What are the Consequences?

For many of us, our gaming addictions don’t cause any harm. We’ll play countless hours of Call of Duty, League of Legends or any other game that takes our fancy and then afterwards continue with our lives. What possible harm could that cause?

Video game addiction in severe cases can be a very serious condition, where people are physically unable to stop themselves from playing; resulting in people neglecting their own welfare and the welfare of their dependents.

In 2010 there was a big media outcry when a three-month-old South Korean girl starved to death. Her parents were repeatedly leaving her alone for twelve-hour stretches, during which they were nurturing a virtual child through a video game known as “Prius Online.” Last year there were reports of two Taiwanese men who both died from cardiac arrest after extensive (23 and 40 hours respectively) gaming sessions.



Can Call of Duty and other similar games really inspire real world violence?


These incidents are exceptionally rare and it is only the most severe cases of gaming addictions that have resulted in deaths such as these. Most of us understand our limits and will therefore never let our gaming addictions spin this far out of control.

However, excessive gaming resulting in physical harm is only one way that our gaming addictions might be affecting us. Our gaming habits could potentially be affecting the way we behave even when we’re not gaming.

In October 2012 a UK Survey (VoucherCodesPro) reported that Fifa 13 had contributed to around 12% of break-ups during the previous month. As with most statistics this will be dependent on several factors and cannot be taken at face value. However, it still suggests that there is a sizeable amount of disquiet being caused by video games.

Violent video games have often been used as a scapegoat when it comes to mass shooting tragedies. However, there is currently no real evidence to suggest that violent video games have a direct connection to mass shootings. In-fact there is as much likelihood that violent films or violent books are to blame for these unacceptable atrocities.


Why should you care?

Ultimately, only you can decide for yourself whether you are addicted to gaming or not. I, personally consider myself to have an addictive personality. Whether playing a game or reading a book I find myself wanting to concentrate solely on that one task until it is complete. This is why I’ve never attempted to play games (such as World of Warcraft) that have a reputation for being very addictive.

If it gets to the point where your gaming exploits result in the neglect of yourself or others around you then it is time to consider making changes to your lifestyle. Try and work out what it is that makes the games you’re playing so addictive and come up with a way to change that. Consider setting yourself a limit on the amount of time you spend gaming or set yourself tasks that you must complete before you allow yourself the reward of a gaming session.



Destiny: The next big addictive game?


Gaming addiction isn’t going away any time soon. If anything, games are becoming even more addictive. Bungie’s recently revealed project titled Destiny promises to offer a “dynamic playing experience” for gamers in a world that will continue to evolve even when you’re not online. By continuing to offer new experiences, Destiny will keep itself fresh and should therefore encourage players to continue exploring within the game.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this article, or any generic comments about gaming addictions, post a comment below.

By Myke

Supreme, unchallenged and unadulterated overlord of this slice of interwebs.

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