The Addictive Nature of Video Games

Video games can become addictive for many young players.  What was once a simple leisure pursuit can become so engrossing they neglect all other aspects of their life, including friends, family and personal care and hygiene.

Is it the nature of the video game or the player that makes these games addictive?

Video games are especially developed to be addictive.  Their makers want people to continue playing them and to increase the time spent on them.  It is not unlike games in a casino, where the game is hard enough to keep you interested, but still allows you to gain some small ‘wins’ so you continue with the game.  If it is too difficult or too easy, people won’t be ‘hooked’.

How do game designers do this?

  • There are websites that show designers the tricks to make their game popular and addictive
  • Using the idea of a leaderboard, so people are always trying to get the highest score, even if it against themselves
  • The use of different levels of play, which allows the player to move up a level, or find another clue
  • Allowing the player to role play, which means they can develop their own character in the game – this adds another emotional level as it is more individualized
  • Just like the original explorers in world history, some games allow the character to explore different worlds, and just like explorers of old, the thrill of discovery keeps them going
  • The player may have different relationships within the game’s world, making the experience seem to be more social and therefore replacing real life experience.

There are some games that are never-ending; these are known as MMORPGs, and they seem to be even more addictive than those games that have an ending.

As well as the actual games being addictive some people seem to be more vulnerable to addictive games.  Some young people who do not find happiness and contentment within their families or with their friends can find solace in these games.

Additional research is also showing that there may also be a physiological part to the addition.  The levels of the hormone, dopamine, have been found to increase considerably when some people are playing.  Dopamine is one of the hormones related to pleasant feelings.

Whether gaming is an actual addiction is still being questioned, but the behavior certainly seems to be evident.  Families and schools need to be aware of this so they are able to help these young people.

Some good advice for parents can be found on ‘Why Won’t My Child Stop Playing Video Games?’

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