Posted August 13, 2012 by Robert Burris in Games

Video Game Addiction – To Play or Not to Play?

Video Game Addiction – To Play or Not to Play?

Video Game Addiction, Internet Addiction Disorder, Computer Addiction or whatever name you want to give it, however you want to classify it, is a very real thing. Even though inclusion of it as a psychological disorder has been proposed and rejected for the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) this is something that affects a lot of people and their families, friends, and loved ones. This is a subject that hits very close to home for me and I want help to raise awareness.

Video Game Addiction is the extreme use of computer and video games; extreme being defined as interfering with the gamer’s daily life. Signs of addiction may include any and or all of the following: compulsive playing, isolation from family and friends or other forms of social contact, and goals that revolve more around gaming achievements rather than ones in real life. Addicts also may exhibit a lack of imagination and mood swings.

While there is no formal classification for this addiction many scholars suggest the effects (or symptoms) of video game overuse may be similar to those of other psychological addictions. Video Game Addiction can be like compulsive gambling, alcoholism, drug use, or other impulse control disorders. People with susceptibility to these addictions are especially at risk.

Let’s flash back ten years or so. I was just graduating high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Final Fantasy XI became for me a more entertaining place then real life. I spent almost every single waking moment playing this game because of how it made me feel. The rush, the endorphin release, and the camaraderie I felt with my friends in-game. It was an escape and I loved it just the same as loving the bottom of a bottle. I lost friends, family, jobs, and relationships. At one point I was living on the floor in the house of a friend, and I was waking up in the morning, playing until I passed out at night, and then rinsing and repeating. Eventually my friend kicked me out and I was forced to cancel my membership. This was the catalyst I needed to try to get my life turned around. Even my health had been in decline as I was pumping poisonous fatty foods and stimulants in the form of soda and energy drinks into my body for weeks or months at a time in pursuit of levels and fatty loots.

Now back to reality and ten years later I have a healthy balance of game time, friendship time, and relationship time with my lovely fiancé.  I hold a steady job and all my bills get paid. My life is grand. I also struggle with the desire or addiction on a daily basis but I try to play in short bursts with friends that can tell me to take a break or even walk away for the rest of the day after a match. I don’t see reaching end game in MMO’s and grinding for epics as the best life has to offer. On a Friday or Saturday night you can find me in the company of family and friends (most of the time).

Addictions (whether chemical or behavioral) are essentially about constant rewards and reinforcement. I’ve included some links below to further reading on the subject if you are interested. The most disturbing thing about this addiction is that companies are actually trying (and succeeding) to get people addicted to their games. They put gamers in a “Skinner Box” and use the science behind the human’s need for rewards and belonging against them. Then developers reinforce these feelings to the point where the gamer will feel bad if he/she is not playing or going after some in-game goal constantly.

It honestly makes me a little sick to my stomach. Game companies will pay scientists to help them make their games not more fun… but more addictive.  The joke has always been “Evercrack” or “World of Warcrack.” The joke is on us not on them. This is a billion dollar drug industry that has no checks or balances. They are profiteering on us and show no signs of slowing down.  The better and more effective they become the more money they make and the higher the bar is raised, the more incentive they have to keep it up.  A lot of people may argue that it’s on the individual not the companies; they don’t have any moral obligation. I’m inclined to agree but at the same time I understand that it’s incredibly hard for people to control themselves. Without a strong group of friends and family or incredible self-restraint it’s easy for people like me to relapse and fall into the same trappings.

To me this is a very interesting subject and I’d love to hear what you think Internets.  Comment down below and let me know your stories and opinions. Do any of you suffer or need help with this? There are lots of resources and detox methods but sometimes the best medicine is to simply unplug and go outside. Real life can pass you by in the blink of an eye so don’t waste it away in front of a screen or plugged into a controller. I almost did and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  /end soap box.

Further Readings:

Robert Burris

I’m a Denver resident with over 20 years of gaming experience. I love all things Geek! A typical weekend for me involves lots of music listening, TV watching, movie enjoying, and video game playing. I hope to make an impact on the industry that will lead to more enjoyable experiences for the video game players.