The Powerful Pull of Video Games

There always seems to be a new game that “everybody” is playing, from Flappy Bird to Fortnite. Over the years, video games have become more alluring and addicting to children, teens and young adults. According to World Health Organization (WHO), gaming addiction in some cases can qualify as a disorder.

The people who use video games as a distraction from their problems instead of doing something to solve them could cause more problems. Those problems can, in turn, cause more gaming. It’s a vicious cycle. That is why gaming addiction can get to the disorder level of severity if left unchecked.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, according to WHO, one has to have one or more of these symptoms: little control over playing video games, prioritizing gaming over regular activities and continuing to play even when there could be negative consequences. For gaming to be considered a disorder, it has to majorly interfere with social, home, school or work life. Symptoms must also be prevalent for 12 months.

Rewards within a game, such as login streaks and global rankings, encourage users to log into a game regularly. The reward feature gives the gamer a sense of accomplishment. Consequently, the more rewards or in-game items they receive. As a result, the cycle continues.

Some people use video games for social and entertainment purposes. But like other addicting things, there is a science to why video games are addicting. Like social media and slot machines, video games are intentionally designed to get people to spend a lot of time on them.

People who get a gaming addiction or disorder can play games either recreationally, or to temporarily escape their problems and stresses. Both groups spend time playing, getting in-game rewards and feeling like they have accomplished something.

Gaming disorder, despite skepticism toward it, is a real addiction and should be treated as so. Gaming addicts need strategies and coaching to get off of their addiction. An avid smoker or alcoholic needs support and strategies to get off of their addiction; they can’t quit “cold turkey.” Gaming addiction should be treated similarly.

Written by Meredith Shepherd

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