Why video games feel so addictive

  • Video games are alternate realities. We experience great satisfaction from our gaming achievements. When compared, real-life seems so much harder and less gratifying.  
  • Video games sometimes provide the guise of genuine social connection. In reality, it can push someone into a dangerously secluded way of life.
  • In games, there are rules and defined goals. Progress is quantified. There are no real-world consequences of failure. In essence, gamers gain a sense of inflated purpose and accomplishment. By contrast, the real world seems mostly bland, and self-worth can be difficult to obtain.

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A new disorder

The World Health Organization officially added a new disorder to the section on substance use and addictive behaviors : gaming disorder

A gaming disorder is defined as an overly and uncontainable preoccupation with video games — the obsession results in significant personal, social, academic or occupational impairment for at least 12 months.

However,  the idea that someone can be addicted to a behavior, as opposed to a substance, remains contentious.

Addiction can include:

  • Addiction as a moral transgression, like excessive drinking or drug use.
  • Addiction as a scientific disease, which characterize alcoholism and drug addiction as biological.
  • Colloquial violation, which applies the term to almost any fixation. 

The idea that someone can be addicted to a behavior, as opposed to a substance, remains debatable.

  • Excessive gameplay is a symptom of a larger problem, like anxiety or depression.
  • The fear of possible addiction arrises from moral panic about new technologies, not scientific research or clinical data.
  • Making excessive gaming a disorder can harm the gaming industry by stigmatizing their products. 
A new framework for Addiction

Experts refer to addiction as a complex behavioral disorder that joins biology, psychology, social environment and culture.

Addiction is now defined as a compulsive engagement in a rewarding experience despite severe consequences. 

  • 2+ billion people worldwide play video games 
  • A typical gamer in the US spends 12 hours playing each week.
  • 60% of gamers neglect sleep to keep playing.
  • 40% of gamers have missed a meal.
  • In 2018, people worldwide spent a collective nine billion hours watching other people play video games on a streaming service.
  • South Korea passed a Shutdown Law in 2011, which prevents anyone under 16 from playing games online between midnight and 6 a.m.
With the help of hired scientists, game developers have employed many psychological techniques to make their products as unquittable as possible.
  • First, players are enticed with easy and predictable rewards.
  • To keep players interested, many games employ a strategy called intermittent reinforcement, in which players are surprised with rewards at random intervals.
Some video games punish players for leaving by refusing to suspend time.

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Patience and Perseverance

“Grinding”: a gaming term that describes any repetitive activity that isn’t fun on its own but performed anyway to obtain some resulting reward. It develops delayed gratification, a requirement for success.

This ability to suffer through something that’s unpleasant right now in order to secure for yourself something even better in the future is bound to help you in any project you pursue.

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Video Games Can Help You Make Friends

Games that are popular or involve social mechanics can help with making friends by giving access to the community that forms around the shared experience. 

Gaming conventions, online multiplayer sessions, and competitions all help players meet new people and make friends with a common interest. 

Rewards and dopamine

Our brains compute 3 things about reward: how much will we get, how soon will we get it, and how certain are we that we will in fact get it. 

And it’s when the probability of a reward hovers at around 50% that dopamine flow is maximal. When the probability of getting it is as high as the probability of not getting it — the point of maximum uncertainty. That’s what turns us on the most.

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