With the evolution of technology, gaming has become a universal pastime that appeals to a diverse population.
Whether it is online multiplayer games on a console or casual gameplay on a smartphone, almost anyone you come into contact with has played a “computer game.” Video games have created a new way to interact with one another and spend our time. Much like gambling, video games can cause individuals to develop compulsive behaviors that turn into a fixation. Video game addiction is often portrayed as something that only affects adolescents, but in reality, many adults struggle with computer and video game addiction as well. There are varying degrees of video game addiction and it may be difficult to identify a problem. In some cases, it may be more apparent. For example, video game addiction may present itself through the development of alternate realities that cause players to neglect real-world responsibilities, personal health, and interpersonal relationships. In other cases, it may present itself more subtly. While not everyone who plays video games develops an addiction, studies show that 10 to 15 percent of gamers exhibit behaviors common among addicts.
Different Types of Video Game Addiction
There are two primary types of gaming addiction which depend on the type of game played. One type of addiction involves games that are often categorized as casual games. These games are generally designed to be single-player and often involve a clear goal, such as completing a mission or beating a high score. The other type of games that often cause addiction are online multiplayer games. These types of games generally have no ending. They may involve creating a character or working with an online community. These types of games are especially addictive because players often develop relationships with others online, escaping their own reality and replacing it with one they prefer. This may cause players to isolate themselves from others and instead spend a majority of their time interacting with their online community.
How Does Gaming Addiction Develop?
There are many factors that can influence the development of video game addiction in an individual. On one hand, video games are addictive because they challenge players enough to keep them engaged without causing them to give up. This is similar to gambling addiction where an individual feels success is just out of reach and they must keep engaging in order to experience accomplishment. On the other hand, gaming opens new worlds where players can become anyone. An individual who feels powerless or shy can become powerful and popular in an online world. They can use gaming as a method of escaping real-world stressors and social anxiety. Video game addiction often coexists with depression or anxiety and online worlds can provide temporary relief.
Video Game Addiction Symptoms
While may symptoms exhibited alone do not indicate addiction, several of the following signs together may indicate that an individual is exhibiting addictive behavior. While gaming and computer usage can be just another aspect of daily life, for some, it can interfere with other areas of life and inhibit an individual’s ability to interact with the real world. Some signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Inability to control the amount of time spent on a game. If an individual is unable to regulate the amount of time spent on a game, they may be addicted. Even when an individual intends only to play for a short period of time, they may find themselves on for several hours at a time.
- Losing time. This often goes hand-in-hand with lack of control. An individual may sign on to a game and lose track of time. They may play through the night and not realize it until the sun is coming up.
- Preoccupation with playing video games. Those who are addicted to video games will find themselves thinking about gaming even while they’re “logged off.” They may become irritated or distracted because their thoughts are consumed. They may incessantly talk about the game or find that they are eager to get back to the game when engaged in other activity.
- Negative impact on other areas of life. When preoccupied with gaming, other areas of life may begin to slip. An individual who is addicted to gaming may begin to isolate themselves from others. They may perform poorly at work or in school and may go so far as to neglect personal hygiene in order to spend more time online.
- Gaming becomes a form of self-medication. For those who struggle with anxiety, depression, stress or other negative emotions, gaming may serve as an escape. The online world becomes their method of engaging with others and they may choose to spend more time in their alternate reality rather than face the pressures of daily life.
- Gaming causes dramatic changes in mood. Similarly to the experiences of an individual addicted to an illicit substance, gaming addiction can cause an individual to experience euphoric highs followed by guilty lows. They may feel shame over the amount of time they spend gaming.
- Gaming can cause financial issues. An individual may choose to invest in games and equipment rather than other necessities. Some games have also introduced the concept of buying upgrades, equipment, and additional items with real-world money, while other games offer players the ability to buy their way through difficult situations, pass levels, buy extra lives, or skip events. With the click of a button, players can charge a card and continue with their gameplay.
Many of these signs do not definitively determine whether or not an individual struggles with addiction, but they can highlight a cause for concern. Video game addiction can be as damaging as drug addiction in its ability to lower a person’s quality of life by interfering with one’s ability or desire to take care of one’s health, relationships, and finances. In order to help an individual who is struggling with video game addiction, it is important to identify triggers that may influence addictive behaviors and help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms. It is impossible to escape the influence of technology in our daily lives. Helping young adults develop healthy relationships with technology can improve quality of life and allow them to prioritize their obligations. Technology should not interfere with other areas of life. Developing interests outside of gaming and discovering other methods of coping with stressors improves the effectiveness of treatment and allows individuals to return to a normal routine.