I have been playing video games from a young age with gaming consoles apparent throughout much of my childhood. In fact, the only time where video games were not a part of my life was during University where money was a major factor in my temporary divorce from playing games. Despite this ‘break’, my adult life has always involved games to a greater or lesser extent, even to a point where people may even describe my affinity to gaming as an addiction. Maybe working in the industry has fuelled that but nearly all long-term gamers will have probably have been told something similar for wildly different reasons. With relatively little scientific evidence to suggest this addiction is as severe as a drug addiction, it is something that can have a detrimental impact on your life. Here I take a deeper look into video game addiction and share my thoughts.
Positives Of Video Games
For most people, video games are a hobby, in that they are not a career path or their only focus in life. Many people who play games also have a partners, jobs or other hobbies that are combined with video games to help lead a healthy lifestyle. However, there are some people where gaming plays a huge part of their lives often requiring daily interaction and long hours of play. Whilst many people maintain a level of control even if they play daily, some people have suggested this lifestyle choice is a dangerous addiction to rival that of drug addiction or the like.
Admittedly, the word addiction is not misused. It is not uncommon for most gamers to have a huge back catalogue of games that they feel compelled to play and are in a constant battle with their free time to fit this gaming around the rest of their lives. This often leads to an over indulgence in time spent playing video games as gamers prioritise their gaming habits over life essentials such as sleeping or maintaining their hygiene. However, even at this stage, it could be deemed as a passion rather than an addiction, especially one so destructive as drug addiction.
It mostly comes down to how in control you are of your urges to play video games. Playing games is not unhealthy in the right doses, like most of things in life. It is no different than watching TV every day or reading a book every day in its basic form, it is simply a pastime that some people have a more enthusiastic approach to. In fact, there is evidence to show that some video games help develop emotional intelligence or improve cognitive skills and general knowledge but only in the right doses. Video games can also help improve an individual’s self-confidence or escape real world traumas, showing that you shouldn’t believe all the journalistic propaganda that claim video games are the cause for violence in young people, etc.
When Gaming Goes Too Far
As a passionate gamer myself, I cannot ignore that video game addiction does exist, however the severe cases appear to affect those susceptible to overpowering addictions. That said, there are some warning signs that would indicate that your video game lifestyle has gone too far. For example, if you are prioritizing gaming over all other aspects of your life then this cannot be healthy.
Take Neil Robertson. For those who don’t know the name, he is a professional snooker player who has recently stated he is recovering from a video game addiction. Neil’s addiction got so overpowering that he prioritised gaming over his own career, something that many other people have done in their lives!
Whilst game developers have mastered the art of storytelling and other ways to keep players in game for longer periods of time, we should not blame video game addiction on this. In the same way that any company may try to improve their products to create loyal customers, game developers are only doing the same thing to maintain their audience and stay in business. But are these experiences tailored to hook in the weak willed?
The psychological rewards for gaming show similar reactions in the brain to a gambling addiction or drug addiction but not quite on the same level. Where playing a video game can increase dopamine levels by 200%, this pales in comparison to methamphetamine which increase dopamine by 1,400%. This may help to explain why gaming can feel addictive but the real difference as to why a gaming addiction is different to drugs or gambling is the way the brain achieves these dopamine levels. With gaming, it is all based around reinforced rewards that appear at regular intervals i.e. completing a level, defeating a boss or enemy. This is completely in the control of the individual, unlike something like gambling.
Despite no hard evidence to support either argument, video games can become an addictive activity, to the point where an individual can ruin aspects of their lives including their social lives, their career and even their health. However, at this stage, this appears to mostly affect people who display an addictive personality. In the same way alcohol, drugs or gambling can be a dangerous activity for someone with an addictive personality, gaming could potentially be added to that list. Ultimately, until there is any scientific proof either way then there will still be articles that claim video games are the root of all evil but from where I’m sitting there is nothing to suggest that video game addiction could affect every individual.
If you are an enthusiastic gamer, then keep enjoying what you do but make sure you don’t neglect other parts of your life for something that is, realistically, a highly enjoyable hobby!