Gaming The System: Ultimate Guide to Video Game Addiction

Playing video games on handheld devices or computers is typically a normal part of most young people’s everyday life. This, however, becomes an addiction when it interferes with daily responsibilities such as studies, household chores as well as relationships.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty some definition of terms

What is Video Game Addiction

Video games allow players to behave in a different way than their regular persona. A passive person can become aggressive and a shy type can be emboldened.

Individuals who often feel powerless are thrust into an arena where they can control their destiny, be in charge of armies, and do actions with zero consequences on real world circumstances. This is one big factor why video games are so enticing.

video gaming

Video games offer an alternative to real-life scenarios. While it may be cumbersome for a good number of individuals to interact face-to-face, it is much easier, for instance, to connect with other people using an online persona.

This creation of an alter ego is appealing to many a common folk this gives them a vestige of power otherwise absent in the real world scenario.

Video games, much like gambling, is an addictive process. Many mental health professionals feel like this because of the addictive behavior exhibited by as much as ten percent of gamers.

This brings us to our next point.

What Makes A Video Game Addictive

Video game addictions often starts as a hobby that takes up a chunk of a person’s waking hours. Like any other condition, it is multifaceted.

To begin with, games are designed to be “addictive,” not in a clinical sense, but in a way where people are lured to spend more time playing.

competition video games

There are websites that are made for this specific purpose. Game design websites asks gamers what they want in terms of game play, graphics, and the like and based on this, fashion games to the latter’s liking. In effect, this makes people spend more time playing than they have before.

In congruence, games are designed to be challenging enough for people to indulge while giving players some perks or rewards that make them want to play more. For instance, video game design can be likened to that of a casino where they give players small “wins” in order for them to continue playing. These particular hooks are devised to make games “addictive”. This include

Role-Playing

role playing games

Gaming is not just about playing per se. Players can actually create their own character, which can serve as an alter ego, and go on travails that are unique and somewhat rewarding. This fantasy world creates an emotional attachment to the character, which makes it more enticing and harder to let go of the game control.

Discovery

playing league of legends

This approach is most often seen in RPG or role-playing games.  Games such as League of Legends and World of Warcraft allow players to explore imaginary worlds. The pleasure of discovery is comparable to that of the conquistadors in the middle ages albeit in a virtual setting. This makes for a more compelling environment that can lead to addiction.

The High Score

high score video gaming

Whether you’re in dinosaur mode and enjoy the earliest iterations of Mario or play the latest editions of the NBA 2K, one of the primary hooks in many games is the high score. Wanting to get the highest score can keep a player in the game for hours on end.

Beating Oneself or the Game

This can be seen in almost all gaming systems. Just like the high score hook, a player want to beat his previous record or find the next clue or reach the next level is just as persuasive as other challenges that can be experienced in the real world.

Relationships

As with most games, online portals allow individual to chat with players and build relationships.  For many players, this community becomes a place of refuge where they are most accepted and can share common interests. This facet makes games a larger draw as people always want to belong.

RPG or Role-Playing Games, especially the MMORPGS or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing games are particularly addictive because it is open ended or has no particular ending. Unlike games like Sonic the Hedgehog where you reach a final level, MMORPG just lets you take on roles and build from there. No final levels to conquer, just other characters take on.

mmorpg

One more factor to consider is that some individuals have a bigger tendency for addiction that others. People, especially kids, with short attention spans, those who feel left out in school, have poor relationships within the family, or are attention seekers are usually more inclined to video games due to the satisfaction they get. Video games fill a certain void that other things cannot easily do.

Moreover, physiological components are now manifested aside from the psychological manifestations of addiction. A Hammersmith Hospital study in 2005 found that playing video induced double the amount of dopamine in a player’s brain. Dopamine is a hormone linked to feelings of pleasure. The study shows that gaming can be chemically addictive.

While some may debate that gaming addiction is not a diagnosable disorder, addictive behavior is nonetheless exhibited. It is a challenge for parents, friends, and teachers to prevent such behavior more so with the potent combination of the predisposition to addictive behavior and the intentional design of games.

Now that we’ve gotten the definitions out of the way, how do we know when a person is addicted to gaming? Here are

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction

Downplaying Computer Use

This is usually the case with addictive behavior. Individuals downplay or outright deny the number of hours they spend in playing video games or being in from the computer.  Many excuses can be conjured like saying they need to be online, or they may just flat out lie about their computer use.

Preoccupation

A video game addict may exhibit a particular fixation to the game. The person can look disinterested,  distracted, or irritable and may constantly talk about the game or insert the game in most conversations.

Loss of Time

A person may intend to spend just a few minutes in front of computer, but may be distracted and lose track of time and spend hours without noticing it. It is common for people with video game addiction to pull out an all-nighter just to reach another level, accumulate brownie points, or engage with other people online.

Lack of Control

video gaming at homeSimilar to the loss of time, a video game addict or someone at risk of being one, may not be able to control the amount of time he spends playing. He may intend to spend just 10 or 15 minutes online to check on something but end up extending a few hours without regard.

Defensiveness

A person may become defensive when asked or confronted about the time he spends gaming. Denial is often the first sign of addiction and indicates that something is wrong, especially if family and friends are neglected or kept out of the loop of one’s life.

Veering Away from Uncomfortable or Negative Situations or Feelings

Gaming can be used as an escape from real world scenarios or as a sort of antidote for pressing situations. When faced with painful or sad circumstances such as failing grades, arguing with parents or friends, and feeling miserable, the person may resort to gaming as a sort of getaway.

Mixed Feelings

Like any addiction, feelings of euphoria are immediately felt. However, this is followed by guilt which may come from what a person does online or the amount of time spent on playing video games.

Misuse of Money

This common to all kinds of addiction. People will allot a disproportionate amount in the quest of that euphoria that is initially felt. This can come in the form of upgrading software as well as hardware and other accessories. This can be even more problematic when money for bills and other necessities is spent on gaming instead.

Negative Impact on Other Areas of Life

The unequal amount of time and money spent on computer games, affects other facets of an individual’s life. He may distance himself family and friends who were once close. Homework and other responsibilities may be neglected and in other extreme scenarios, an individual may opt to play videos games instead of taking a shower, thereby ignoring personal hygiene.

While some may still be added to this list, it can be a diagnostic tool for parents, friends as well as other family members. Nevertheless while most people may think of a gaming addict as a hormone-raging teen, gaming addiction may likewise affect adults.

Similarly, with the advent of online gaming and more apps catering to appetite of adults, it is not surprising that the gaming craze is on the rise.

video gaming adults

Like many younger people, adults also want a respite from the pressures of everyday living. Countless adults are overwhelmed by responsibilities and it’s not difficult to understand why. They mandated to balance the needs of their spouse and children, demanding jobs, as well as parents and friends. They turn to video games as a form of relaxation and to take their minds off  the life’s stresses.

For majority of adults, an hour of light entertainment in the form of a boxing or MMA match or car racing video game can provide some relief. However, this can make a turn for the worse when they indulge in excessive gaming and begin to evade other interests as well their responsibilities.

There are certain red flags that lead to a larger problem. This include:

  • Playing video games cause intense guilt or pleasure that seem out of control
  • Lying about the time they spend on video games
  • Spending more time in gaming to draw the same amount of pleasure or enjoyment.
  • Withdrawal from spouse, family, or friends to the points of social or work life disruption
  • Being fixated or focusing attention on gaming even when doing other things.

Given the financial capacity of adults, they can spend for games that require money for certain upgrades. This exacerbates the situation as money meant for needs can be spent on this sort of “vice.”

Someone you know maybe struggling with computer game addiction. Here are some tell-tale signs at home or at work:

At Home

An addict’s spouse is among the first people to take not of compulsive computer game play. Other family members as well as close friends may likewise be affected. When an individual spends more time on video games than playing with their kids or conversing with their spouse, marital relations turn sour.

In worse cases, screen time is favored while household chores as well as other responsibilities are neglected.  Addicts are frequently in denial and may lie to family to avoid confrontation or tackling the problem.

At Work

video gaming at work

As with any addiction, work performance may suffer when someone is hooked on video games. In many cases, someone who stays up all night to play games will be too tired at work the following day. As a result, he may fall asleep on the job or fail to complete assigned tasked on time, which may lead to reprimand or worse, termination.

In worst case scenarios, video game addicts play video games while on duty or during working hours and would even use company computers in the process. Video games are given priority even when there are needs to be met and far important things to accomplish.

Notice some of these warning signs? It’s time for you to get help. Share your knowledge and lend support to a family member, colleague, or friend who maybe going through such. There are numerous treatment and counseling options to combat with video game addiction.

Meanwhile, physical symptoms of video game addiction may likewise be seen in adults just as much as young people. This include:

Migraines

Migraines usually begin in one part and slowly affects other spots, all while being more excruciating as they progress. Some sufferers even vomit due to extreme pain.

The strain on the eyes and the intense concentration needed for playing video games makes one more prone to bouts of migraine especially when gaming is done over extended periods.

Sleep Disturbances

sleep disturbances video gaming

Sleep disturbances include disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, parasomnia (ex. Nightmares as well as sleeptalking or walking), nocturnal myoclonus or periodic arm o leg jerks while sleeping). The overstimulation of the brain partly causes sleep disturbances and many gamers simply can’t get a good night’s rest because of thinking about a game.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It’s not surprising that carpal tunnel syndrome is a physical symptom of gaming addiction as it has long been linked to computer use. Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the nerve between the hand and forearm is pinched. The carpal tunnel or the part of the wrist which houses tendons and the main nerves becomes swollen or irritated. The overuse of a video game controller or a mouse can lead to such swelling or irritation.

Eating Irregularities

Most gaming addicts want to indulge more in game play rather that sit down and take time to finish a meal. Fast food or food that is easy to munch or eat are taken over healthy, balanced meal. In the extreme, some games choose not to eat at all as in the case of one teenager who died after playing video games for 40 hours without eating or sleeping.

Backaches

Having to seat for hours on end takes its toll on just about anyone. Gamers are not an exception. Soreness and stiffness are expected as gaming addicts sit through hours of games. This can even worsen into chronic back ailments.

Poor Personal Hygiene

Among the first things to be overlooked when engaged in hours of gaming is personal hygiene. Personal grooming becomes less of a priority as gamers have less physical interaction with people. Combing hair, showers, brushing  teeth take a backseat and acne, dental illnesses as well as other conditions may follow.

Apart from physical symptoms effects, there are likewise social consequences of video game addiction.

For instance, your friend calls you on the phone and maybe has something important to say, but instead of answering the call right away, you choose to finish the level first and just return the call. You may even forget to give your friend a call back.

Situations like this are not uncommon for individual to who are addicted to gaming. Many times video game addicts choose to be in their virtual world rather than engage people in the real world.

Gaming addiction has real social consequences are much time is spent playing to the detriment of personal relationship. To illustrate, 50 percent of married addicted gamers report marriage strain as an effect of addiction.

divorce due to excessive gaming

Numerous stories on the interweb show how detrimental it can get when gaming is prioritized over social decisions. In 2011, gaming addiction was blamed for 15 percent of divorces , with husbands playing for hours on end and focusing less on their spouses. In another story, teen was admitted to hospital Delhi Hospital for gaming addiction symptoms such as being “distracted, irritable, and disinterested” when kept from online games.

Neglect is not only the culprit for ruined relationships. Some are so enamored with a game that it’s typically what they talk about to the point of alienating others. Such individuals cannot or refuse to interact and have face-to-face conversation or support or encourage family and friends. Video game addicts may feel left out as friends talk about something else. The former may likewise feel offended or irritated. It may not at once occur to them that setting aside much of their time for gaming is the cause for being left out.

On another note, physical consequences may likewise result to social outcomes. For example, addicted games who lose or lack sleep due to so much gaming may lack the energy and enthusiasm to further relationship. Moreover, they may likewise be irritable and difficult to deal with.

Long-term effect on effective social skills may also be noticed particularly in teenage game addicts. As a result, healthy relationships become more to difficult develop and maintain. Isolationism results from gaming addiction and further feeds the condition. As a person finds it harder to enjoy people’s company, the more likely he is to move back and confine himself to the virtual world where chatting is easier and other gamers are just waiting for him.

The aforementioned shows how serious video game addiction is. There is a part of society where it not just a casual pastime, but an escape from the rigors of relationship. Although its being a diagnosable disorder is largely debatable, there is a need for family and friend who would help break the cycle.

Signs of Video Game Addiction

Here are 5 signs you should get help with gaming addiction:

  1. You are happy when playing video games, but get upset or angry when you have to stop.
  2. Gaming becomes your preoccupation and you forget about important things such as family dinner and doing your school work.
  3. You spend more time playing video games than hanging out with people.
  4. You lie or laugh things off when asked what you spend your time on.
  5. You have a difficult time getting sleep and you get up in the middle of the night to check for updates to your game.

Treatments of Video Game Addiction

Some experts note that video game addicts number up to 10 percent of all gamers. It is thus poignant to reiterate the role of family and friends in helping kick the habit. It is best to talk these issues out with a counselor or a confidante and see what solutions you can come up with. For instance, we can look to the example of how Vietnam War veterans kicked bad habits with a change of environment.

While it may be more difficult to stop engaging in video games altogether, putting a limit on time spent gaming is more achievable when someone is monitoring you. Moreover, establishing genuine connection through offline interactions works well toward replacing gaming with more productive activities.

social interactions to replace video gaming

Interestingly, video game addiction needs to be treated just like any other addiction. Games, just as any addiction, serve as an escape from problems or challenging circumstances. Video games are specially appealing given that players can control the destiny of characters. This gives them a semblance of control –even if it’s just virtual.

An addiction counselor states that the brain produces endorphins when one plays video games, which give a high comparable to what drug addicts and gamblers experience. Responses of gamers even reflect those of alcoholics and gamblers when asked regarding use.

However, there’s another challenge when doing away with something that takes up much of your free time and engages most of your social network. Kids and teenagers who are virtual reality addicts may find it difficult to have face to face communication with people.  It may take time for them to feel at ease in a real world setup with people who are tangible. The online world affords them the time or chance to edit what they have to say. There is likewise little risk in talking with a person who is miles away or in a different time zone.

Socially awkward or shy kids have greater predisposition toward video game addiction compared to athletes or those who get into interest groups or clubs. Without computer use, what are they to do with their time? Outside help maybe needed to deal with such concerns. Building their confidence to face real world situations is the way to go.

Ask anyone who has been on a diet or who quit smoking and they’ll tell you how much more difficult it is when the source of your addiction is just around you and there are many people who can influence you to indulge. In the same vein, a child who is a video game addict needs a computer for assignments in school. Their friends, by all likelihood, may also be gamers. How do you address the problem then?

You can begin by consulting a therapist or searching for a treatment program that focuses on teens. For instance, a camping trip or wilderness course can force your child to engage in reality where he engages with real people and gets away from the typical virtual environment he is in. This time can be used to develop other fields of interest, build confidence, and cultivate social skills.

A word of caution though, you need to choose the right kind of program. Case in point, a military camp or highly competitive booth camp can be more harmful. Boarding schools as well as wilderness therapy focused on behavioral issues and addiction treatment may just be what the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, now that we’ve gotten the basic stuff out of the way, here’s a point of interest: some of the most addictive games from repetitive games such as Tetris to MMORPG or massive multiplayer online role-playing games.

Two games stand out in the MMORPG lot: World of Warcraft as well as Everquest.

According to IB Times, World of Warcraft by Blizzard entertainment reached 100 million accounts in 2014. Its addictiveness has earned it the nickname “World of Warcrack.” This games offers something for every kind of playing – playing alone, playing together, fighting as well as fantasy. The perks of WOW gold, better armor, and better equipment hook a lot of teens to play for extended periods to get to higher levels. For its ubiquity, it earned an episode on South Park that parodied its addictiveness. a

Meanwhile, Everquest is MMORPGs’ granddaddy and is interestingly nicknamed “Never-Rest.” It was first released in 1999.

Apart from the wide array of game play, users also point out to these games’ dynamic nature as a leading factor to their addictiveness. The games have no ultimate goal and there’s no “winning.” You need to spend hundreds of hours to reach the level and surprise, surprise, just when your characters gets to the top level, the game changes. Numerous gamers utilize multiple characters to take on various weapons and roles.

Similarly, Halo 3 played online via gaming consoles such as XBOX or PlayStation have gamers quipping the term “Halodiction.” Bloggers and commenters have boasted about stretches of 15 hours or so of play. Astounding graphics and sounds contribute to dopamine-inducing experience which gamers refer as movie like or being the star of your own blockbuster.

Nonetheless the difference in this console game is that there’s an end. A gamer reaches or achieves a final level after countless hours of play. However, in the online, multiplayer mode, there are endless various and lots of players go back time and again to battle the bad guys.

Then there are games such as Solitaire and Tetris. These games have basic game play but can likewise be addictive, especially when installed on tablets or cell phones. There are likewise countless game apps that can be played offline, which gives gamers, particularly teens, the leeway to play anywhere even while in classes.

One another note, one important thing to discuss is violence in video games. Among the most popular video games on Amazon is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Players take on the character of a British or US soldier who does missions in military hotspots, the most treacherous of enemy territories in the world. The violence is graphic and the images have a life-like feel.

According to the Americal Psyhological Association (APA), research shows a connection “between violent video game use and both increases in aggressive behavior … and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and moral engagement.”

With the increase in the level of violence in video and online games, there has likewise been increasing concern for its effects on gamers –particularly those who are already addicted. The large part of school shootings in previous have been perpetrated by avid gamers, whose game choices were violent and dark.

This however is a chicken and egg situation. Is violence in video games the main factor for these individuals’ violent behavior? Or are they predisposed to violent tendencies and are just led to violent games by such predisposition?

Violence in video games was not a thing at the onset in the 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1980s where systems such as PlayStation came to the fore that violence came into question. Sophisticated gaming consoles and systems made graphics more life-like, which in turn bumped up interest of gamers and also the connection between these games and violent behavior.

Among the issues raise is that video game violence isn’t passive. You have to be the aggressor in order to win. Instead of merely watching, the gamer is now the one who commits violent actions. Majority of researchers note that such participation influences thought patterns –even just in the short term.

Another cause for concern among parent as well as researchers is that violence is usually rewarded, not punished. To level up in first person shooter games, players need to kill a certain number of characters. Prolonged exposure to environments such as this can slant an individual’s view of violence as well as its consequences.

The General Aggression Model (GAM) was developed by researchers Anderson and Bushman in 2002 and has been a great help in explaining the complexities if violent video games vis-à-vis aggressive or violent gamers. The GAM acknowledges that personality factors into how a gamer is affected by violence.

According to Anderson and Bushman, a person interprets aggressive behavior according to thoughts, feelings as well as physiological responses. Some individuals are more hostiles, which makes them more aggressive when playing violent video games.

The GAM identified short-term effects, most notable of which is the change in how gamers interpret as well as react to aggression. Even those who are relatively peaceable respond more hostilely after engaging in violent video games. The game changes how they view and react to aggression and is called the “situational variable.”

Meanwhile, long-term effects are still a subject for debate. There have been no long-term studies so far and hypotheses are all there are. Too much time spent on violent video games, Anderson and Bushman theorize, leads to the shaping of aggressive attitudes and beliefs, while likewise numbing or letting gamers get used to violent behaviors.

Although there are no clinical trials for the long-term effects just yet, you only have to look at how violence in video have escalated for the past twenty years to project the long-term consequences. Parents and guardians need to monitor how much time their wards spend gaming to counter these possible negative outcomes.

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