I was surprised when I came across this the first time. Some years ago, documentaries about kids that got addicted to a game.
They knew the world map of the game better than their own neighbourhood they were living in! Isn’t that unbelievable?! At the time World of Warcraft was the most popular or rather most advertised game, that people got addicted to. But I don’t think that the start of gaming addiction started with World of Warcraft. Consoles and console gaming existed much longer than that game.
The only thing we can say about it is that World of Warcraft was played by really many people and it got pretty enormously press attention. With so many players playing, there was bound to happen something with certain player groups. But.. I don’t believe that it just existed then.., game addiction must be something that exists for much longer. Well let’s find out, shall we?
First a definition from Wikipedia (Addiction)
Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behaviour despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.
But that can’t be the right definition for this. Gaming is a behaviour so behavioural addiction is probably more appropriate:
“Behavioral (non-chemical) addiction is a form of addiction which does not rely on drugs like alcohol. Increasingly referred to as process addiction or non-substance-related addiction, behavioral addiction includes a compulsion to repeatedly engage in an action until said action causes serious negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being. One sign that a behavior has become addictive is if it persists despite these consequences.”(behavioral addiction – wikipedia)
So there we have it. People have been playing too many video games, too much of World of Warcraft, too much of FPS etc. These games have gotten their attention and it got them sucked in so much, that they aren’t able to function normally anymore outside of it.
They forget about things like eating and drinking regularly and healthy, exercise, spending time with family and friends etc. All attention has gone into the game and playing the game at all times.
You start to notice if a friend or family member of yours, plays all the time during your visit, cancels appointments for going out for a drink just so they can play more, when their visual appearance starts to change and when you have to wade through a sea of cola bottles and pizza boxes before you can reach him/her.
Time to do something about it. But can actually anything be done about it even?
According to Wikipedia:
“Behavioral addiction, which is sometimes referred to as impulse control disorders, are increasingly recognized as treatable forms of addictions.”
Although (video) game addiction has not officially acquired acknowledgement by the medical department, there are several researches going on and people are treated for this form of addiction. As gaming addiction seems to be similar to other impulse control disorders, there are similar treatments against it. This means that there is help for those who cannot stay away from their PC or console too long. Or for those who cannot be one day without internet for that matter, as that goes in the same category as game addiction really.
The press showed special clinics or camps that went sporting and trying to get the kids into a more normal rhythm back. Even though some got back into their lives in a normal way again, most of them went back into gaming.
So then I wondered, why hasn’t this person thought about the consequences.. or rather.. thought about what they want to achieve in life?
Well, perhaps because there is often more to addiction. More than what is visible on the outside of a person, more than what the news sources tell you. Often there is background information missing to a person who gets into drugs or alcohol abuse as well. And a logical one too:
Being unhappy with yourself as a person. This has to do with self acceptance or the lack thereof.
Why do I play for example a role playing game? Because I like that the character that I play has cool powers and can defeat enemies in a few minutes. Because the character looks so nice, has a good body with muscles? My character is confident and knows what to say and when. He knows how to handle the situation in a cool manner. Etc. Well this is just an example ofcourse.
But what I try to say with that is that you often don’t feel all happy about your own self, your own life. You feel you are too fat, too thin, too weak, nothing special ever happens to you or you have no possibility to get to become James Bond or something.
Or you have problems at school with other kids, behavioral problems at school, getting teased, being bullied or being the bully because at home you have problems with parents that are always fighting etc etc.
And then you came across this game. This game made you be that character you never got to be yourself! Fantastic! You start playing and playing and playing and when it is really a good game with addictive elements, then you will also want to stay in it.
That brings me to the hypotheses that “People who are having underlying psychological conditions will easier become addicted”, the same way as say a person with underlying conditions can easier get depressed etc.
But you cannot entirely blame yourself or your own life for becoming addicted. Also the game itself can be inviting you to become addicted. They add elements that are both interestingly attractive and bottomless time wasting experiences. These elements.. or stimula work like an alcohol or a drug, they make you continously happy.
Better items is perhaps the most-known version. Big roleplaying games have used this over and over again. An interesting item system that generates interesting powerful items for your character. Whether it is pure visual or also statistics that makes your character perform better in the games’ combat.
But more money is a close follow up in this one, as people basicly play the “auction house game” in these games as well. Continuously buying and selling, finding the most requested resources and selling them.
But for these elements there is two things that play part:
On one side do they all contribute your character and your performance in the game, but a more important aspect is that you as a player want to compare yourself with other players on what you have obtained, achieved and how you look like.
PvP is one of those areas that get people addicted aswell. And this you see back in FPS games. People not only want to compare to each other, but also want to see who is the strongest, the smartest or the best and this shows a pre-historic value in humans.
Exploration is perhaps a little less known as game element, but as long as there is much to explore, it will keep a player busy. Very close to this one is building freely. This element and the previous one you see back in MineCraft. You can create whatever thing comes to mind and you can explore a really big world of blocks. I believe there are also many MineCraft players who are addicted to their game.
Whether or not someone should go to a special clinic for this I am not so sure. I feel that parents (if you still live at home) can help you, as well as eventually a doctor or socialogue. If you are older and you are figuring out that you are perhaps game addicted than you have already taken one big step. Accepting that you have a problem. The next thing you can do is to seek help. Whether that is family or friends or directly via a doctor to another help instance.
It will come down to understand yourself with what you are doing, accepting yourself as a person in life and trying to prioritize on what is important and take that game as an additional form of entertainment on the side, not as a main priority. Unless…. it is your job of course!
Game on, but don’t forget your family and friends!