Video Game Addiction: Symptoms, Consequences & Advice
Video Game Addiction – All There is to it [infographic]
Games are being developed with an intent to be addictive; Fortnite is a great example of this. Infographic below explains all you need to about Gaming addiction.
Technology and modernization have impacted all aspects of our life and completely changed the way we live. Gone are the days when entertainment meant people getting together for fun or families going out. Both adults and children have found a new stress buster- the video games. None can deny the thrill, excitement and the adrenaline rush offered by it. What started out as a mere source of entertainment has become a form of addiction today. Some people become so addicted that they prefer it over anything else. This ends up costing them their career, studies, and social life. The enthusiasm has risen to such an extent that a new term has been coined for it- “The Video Game Addiction.” In this write-up, we will try to understand what exactly it is and walk you through different aspects of it.
What Is Gaming Addiction?
Till date, there has been not a single comprehensive definition of video game addiction, also called popularly as the Compulsive gaming disorder.
It is bracketed as an addiction which can be stated to be on similar lines to an alcohol, smoking or substance addiction.
A person cannot be called a gaming addict merely based on the hours they devote playing video games. The behavior is deified as gaming addiction when a person gives it due importance over their social life, relationships, career or educational responsibilities.
The Skinner Theory
The model states that if a person is awarded for making an action, This will condition their mind in a way that they would consider making the action again.
Most addictive games use his findings as a way to manipulate players into spending more time on it.
This reward system in many games is designed to frustrate you, so you end up buying the rewards with real money instead of gambling around. Games such as “clash of clans” make millions using this model and it’s surprising no one seems concerned about this.
Below is a video I came across which explains this theory in greater depth.
Most Addictive Types Of Games
Objective based games have a defined ending. Example; Rescuing a princess (Mario), surpassing high scores. A player keeps trying to surpass previous benchmarks.
It might not sound like trouble, but a lot of people suffer from addiction to this kind of games. These people are usually not aware but spend indefinite amounts of time trying to establish a high score.
Recently, There has been a new kind of sport in the discussion which is called “speed running.” People who participate in this sport are usually suffering from this kind of addiction.
Online multiplayer games usually don’t have a defined ending. Example; Fortnite (A popular online multiplayer survival game), In which Several players have to compete against each other and the one to survive till the last wins.
This kind of games are fun to play but also the most addictive. These games also have features which allow players to talk to each other. This is an excellent way for players to interact but it sometimes also leads to aggressive behavior among players.
Online multiplayer games are very addictive since they have no end. Games such as GTA (Grand theft auto) assume an online character which slowly disconnects players from reality. Termed as MMORGS, this addiction is fatal and has severe drastic effects.
Factors and Causes Leading to Video Gaming Addiction
Here are a few known ways which are implemented in almost all modern games. These are very common, and it’s highly likely that you have noticed them in games you play.
Most addictive games lack any specific endpoint or ultimate goal which can give any player the satisfaction of completion or winning. This makes the player return each time to attain it and feel a sense of achievement finally.
Fueling the needs to make social connections
The modern video games have broken the realm of being a solo activity and almost makes it mandatory for players to form virtual social relationships but at the cost of real-world connections.
Rewards are offered via a leveling system
Most addictive games are based on this model. This is one of the most effective ways to condition a person. Players are randomly awarded for their actions. Since the reward uses an RNG (Random Number Generator) system, This manipulates a player in spending more time playing and wait for the reward.
Encourage collaboration with other players
Most multiplayer games let you form teams with another player who could be anywhere on the globe. This leads to interaction, and one feels a sense of bonding and a common goal. This engrosses the player and eliminates the need to interact with real people.
Most addictive video games closely mimic the real world. In-game currencies can be used to purchase items (Power up, Skins, etc.), This is just another way to convince players to spend more time on the game.
Video games come across as harmless activities
It is quite easy for all of us to recognize smoking, drinking, gambling, etc. as an addiction with adverse effects but video games come across as a harmless and fun activity. Thus, it becomes challenging for the players and their family to recognize it as an addiction with drastic effects.
Rewards timed at variable schedules
The rewards given to a player follows an erratic pattern which keeps the player hooked to the game. The model makes use of the behavioral psychology which propels one to play even in the absence of rewards.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Video Gaming Addiction
The symptoms displayed in this addiction are quite similar to those displayed in a drug or alcohol addiction. They can be broadly divided into main categories i.e. the emotional symptoms and the physical symptoms.
Let’s learn more about them.
Emotional or Psychological Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
Before any physical symptoms, the emotional symptoms start taking shape and sends off first warning signals.
These are such that we almost ignore them initially. They grab our attention only when they have assumed gigantic proportions.
It is essential to make a note of them at the starting stages itself. Some of the emotional symptoms displayed are:
- The first sign often seen is a loss of interest in activities which the child or adult enjoyed earlier like playing outdoor and indoor games, indulging in hobbies, chatting with friends, going out, etc.
- The academic performance, as well as interest, take a dip.
- The individual is always thinking about the game and is eager to get back to it whenever offline.
- Feels anxious or depressed when not playing the game.
- Feels and even expresses anger and frustration when not allowed to play the game or unable to play the game. The restlessness of the person crosses the normal level. It may even manifest as aggression against the person stopping him from playing.
- Always dreaming and thinking strategies for the game even when he is studying or carrying out the duties of the job.
- The player gets wholly immersed in the game with deep feelings of euphoria. The individual even forgets about the physical environment. The same happens with his sense of time. It can be hard to keep track of time while playing these games; A distortion happens where hours seem like minutes. Gradually, the person loses all personal control when playing the game.
- Another common symptom is justifying playing and downplaying the addiction. If the family member point to his getting engrossed and almost addicted to the game. A common justification could be how they play way less than their friends.
- If the server is down or any other situational difficulty prevents the player from playing the game, he/she displays an abnormal display of frustration and anger. The same frustration and disturbed state can be noticed if the player is kept away from the game for a couple of days. It is a tall task for any player to abstain from the game even for a few days.
- Often players lie about the time they spend playing. If they realize the amount of time spent; they may feel guilt but quickly brush it aside and immerse back in the game. Even attempts to quit the game fail and the player inevitably gets back to it.
Overall, video games become the entire world of the individual, and it takes over the real world for the individual. For the player, it becomes the real world and anything taking him away for it triggers a deep and aggressive negative emotion from it.
Physical Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
Alongside the emotional symptoms, physical symptoms also surface.
This happens as a natural consequence of his soul getting wholly consumed by the game.
Few of the symptoms are:-
- The first sign is decreased personal hygiene. His room is often untidy with clothes scattered around, dishes and mugs lying around. While being engrossed in the game, the person does not eat properly or bath properly. He is eager to get back to his game.
- The person starts showing a poor and irregular eating habit. Often the person does not even realize that he/she is hungry and only eats when essential.
- The sleeping habit or pattern of the person suffers a drastic change. He finds it very difficult to sleep in the excitement of the game and tends to awake in the middle of the sleep. More often than not, he dreams of the game and thus wakes up. There is an energy jolt in the person to get back to the game.
- Because of continued play, the eyes of the person often tends to red and dry, and soon headaches and migraines may follow.
- The entire body gets sore and aching due to the sedentary lifestyle and position. Pains in the fingers, neck, back, arms, etc. are common issues.
- The overall health of the person takes a serious dip, and the person may end up looking haggard and tired.
- Abnormal weight gain or weight loss may take place. This happens as the person may forget to eat or take to compulsive eating.
- The player may start suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In this, the median nerve passing through the wrist gets compressed, and the person begins feeling pain, numbness or a tingling sensation in the fingers, hands, and arms.
- Various diseases like bursitis, tendinitis and other diseases due to a sedentary lifestyle and stationary position may occur.
Overall the blood flow of the body gets severely affected a numbness starts taking place. Because of it, numbness starts developing in the body and nutrients fail to reach to the various organs of the body. This gives rise to different medical conditions.
What could too much gaming lead to?
The video gaming addiction is like any other compulsive disorder and has both long and short-term consequences. Most of the physical and emotional conditions discussed above are nothing but short-term consequences.
If the short-term consequences are ignored and allowed to persist, it takes on a gigantic proportion as a long-term consequence.
Short-Term Consequences of the Gaming Addiction
- Poor performance The player, be it a child or adult starts shirking his work or school responsibilities, cuts himself away from peers and society and tends to stay in his room gaming. Thus, the work or academics suffer heavily. Moreover, this ceases to be a source of concern for the child or adult.
- Social isolation As already discussed, the person gets wholly focused on forming his virtual relationships. Thus, he isolates himself from his friends and family. Even if he sits with them, he wants to talk about games exclusively. In case, any person speaks against it, he takes an aggressive stance and is ready to take on a dangerous fight. This alienates the person from his friends and family.
- Financial issues Once the person becomes a victim of gaming isolation, he/she readily invest in all equipment and gadgets which would enhance his gaming experience; Gaming Keyboards, Mouse, Monitors, etc. cost a lot of money. Other financial needs take a severe dip. Initially, the problem is small but takes an ugly turn if neglected for long.
- Health problems Sitting in one position and continue playing the game gives rise to general sore and ache in the body, eating disorder, headache, sleep disruption and all other roots of health problems start taking shape which takes on a dangerous turn if continues for a long term.
- Behavioral problems As the addiction starts taking shape, you can start to notice behavioral problems. The only euphoria they experience is in the game. Thus, they refuse to socialize or mingle with the family or friends. If they are stopped from playing, you can expect a display of a wide variety of negative emotions like anger, frustration, obstinate behavior where they insist in being allowed to play to even violent behavior like verbal abuse or even a physical fight. It can often end with them justifying their behavior, defending the game or also feeling guilty about spending long hours playing.
Long-Term Consequences of the Gaming Addiction
If the short-term consequences are ignored and allowed to persist, it takes on a gigantic proportion as a long-term consequence. Few of the consequences worth throwing light on are:-
- Financial consequence A gamer usually starts getting obsessed with getting the latest gadgets that would enhance his gaming experience and give him an edge over other players. Since the equipment is often expensive, they start creating a big financial hole after an extended period. This can cause a financial crisis in the family.
- Health issues Serious diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome and all other illnesses mentioned start surfacing. Along with physical illness, mental illness also starts taking an aggressive turn. The person just cannot quit the game despite the mounting problems. He loses the sense of realm time and almost breathes every single breath in his virtual world. Various mental issues like aggression, anxiety, depression, etc. start ruling him.
- Social issues By becoming a slave to the game, the gamer starts losing on quality time with friends, families, relatives, etc. Gradually this leads to social isolation and the person starts displaying all metal issues and loneliness despite him claiming to an uncountable number of online friends.
- Combating the Addiction It is only in 2018 that video gaming addiction has been diagnosed with a mental disorder. To first treat, we have first to pay attention to the details and diagnose addiction. This is no particular hard and fast rule or testing methods which can confirm the dependence. One can play a game continuously for the whole day and is comfortable staying away from it for a couple of days to a week. Thus, it cannot be classified as an addiction. To combat the disease, the best way is to take preventive measures in the first place so that the addiction does not take place.
Preventive Advice for Parents and Family
Does your child plays too much video games?
It is necessary that you take proper steps to help them overcome it.
Quitting video games altogether is not an easy task. Several steps can be taken by the parents and family from the start so that the addiction does not take root.
- Limit time of playing video games It is best to limit the time devoted to video games from the start to probably an hour. It is quite similar to rationing the time in front of the television. Post that, the child should participate in physical games with his peers. The adult can spend time with his family. This time should be tracked strictly and strictly adhered to.
- Look into the choice of games We have already discussed how video games are designed to be addictive. Thus, the best preventive measure would be to choose games which have a definitive end and give the player the satisfaction of winning and achieving. This will prevent the addiction from taking shape.
- Pay attention to time of play Video games provide an ideal way for the players to escape from the turmoil and difficulties of real life. It is always a smart idea to also track at the time when the player is playing the game and often tries to exceed the timeline. It can easily be obtained by maintaining a video game log. After a time, it would be easy to see that often the game is played when the player is bored, depressed, angry or in any negative state of mind. Ideally, the game should be played only when the player is calm and relaxed. Other healthy outlets should be chosen to help the player deal with negative emotions. This will reduce the vulnerability to getting addicted.
- Be observant about symptoms of video gaming addiction It pays to be vigilant of the player’s reaction to the game. In case a certain game is triggering negative emotion in the child/adult or making him oblivious to his surrounding, it’s best to pay heed to the red flag and eliminate the game from the records. The game is not an ideal choice to be played.
- Tantrums after time limits The player should be able to quit the game after the play time is over. If tantrums are displayed, or strong headedness is displayed to continue with the game or any of the addiction symptoms, the red flags should not be ignored, and tighter restrictions should be enforced.
Treating Video Gaming Addiction
The video gaming addiction has been a recent development. Hence a proper and specified treatment is still missing.
Some video gaming rehabs have been springing up in some countries, but their count is negligible. Broadly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the base model of therapy selected to help the player in his social and emotional recovery.
This follows along similar lines used to treat alcohol addiction or substance addiction.
One-to-one interaction with a psychologist therapist
Taking help of a psychologist is a great idea to deal with the problem. Today, few therapists are coming up who have expertise in dealing with video gaming addictions, but they are still a rare breed. Thus, if you fail to find, it’s best to seek a psychiatrist who is at least well versed in the gaming world and acknowledges video gaming addiction. The line of treatment adopted is cognitive-behavioral therapy via which attempts are made to change the thoughts that push the player to play the game.
This therapy is terrific for both adults and child equally. Adults often opt for couple therapy. In this method, the family dynamics, interactions, etc., are studied to pinpoint causes of the addiction. Then the entire family as a whole participates and eliminates the negative conditions.
In-Patient intervention programs
It is quite similar to a rehab center. Here the addicted player has to stay in a rehab center for a month or so where a team of mental health experts takes all steps and counseling with the concentration on beating the video gaming addiction. It is often expensive and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Currently, they are quite a few and found most in South Korea followed by the United States.
This is quite similar to the inpatient treatment but is a far less expensive option. Here, the addict is removed from his home and made to lie with other addicts in an outdoor environment. Video games are completely banned here, and access to other technology and electrical gadgets is severely restricted. Apart from counseling, various activities and game are organized to help the addict develop his confidence and self-esteem and develop better interpersonal relationships.
Video games addiction books
These are meant for people motivated to help themselves out of addiction. This is also a terrific choice for families to adopt and help the player kill the addiction. These books make the addict become aware of his addiction and the wreck it has caused in his life and then take steps in a guided and measured manner to get out of the habit. It is a great option for almost all addicts to follow.
Often video gaming addiction is intimately connected with mental illness. Thus, health expert might also prescribe some anti-depressants or other medicines to restore psychological balance. Taking an all-around approach helps the addict win over his condition and lead a healthy and happy life.
Video gaming addiction is a relatively new mental disorder that experts are still trying to comprehend fully. Treating the addiction is not easy, but it is not impossible to achieve. Simultaneously, it must be kept in mind that video games have numerous benefits on the intellectual and reflex development. Thus, it should not be banned, but the right perspective should always be kept in mind to keep its negative consequences at bay. It should be used as a mode of entertainment and skill development and restricted to minimal time.