Video games can be an incredibly fun form of entertainment for any age, and can definitely have it’s own benefits too. However, too much of anything isn’t healthy, and video games are no different. In this thesis about video game addiction, we’ll discuss what addiction looks like in the form of video games, why it’s addicting, signs of video game addiction, as well as how to combat it.
Why is Gaming so Addictive?
At a neurological level, dopamine is a hormone that facilitates addiction. Dopamine, colloquially known as the pleasure hormone, leads to more motivation to repeat the activity again to seek further dopamine release.
Addictive Reinforcement Schedules
A ,variable-ratio schedule provides rewards after a varying number of responses. Examples include slot machine rewards, getting commissions from cold calls, and video games! It’s impossible to predict how a game will play out before it begins, so the reward of winning is often unpredictable as well. On a neurological level, a variable-ratio schedule leads to more dopamine release than a fixed-ratio schedule, which correlates with higher motivation to perform the task again, leading to a higher chance of addiction.
Similar to gambling machines, games have visually and audibly flashy ways to emphasize a reward. In the same way that a slot machine rings bells and whistles while blasting LED lights, a video game loot box also explodes in fireworks of varying hues and colors.
These flashy lights and sounds signal to our brain that something pleasurable is about to happen, which leads to dopamine release. ,We then crave more of these pleasurable experiences like winning money and getting more loot boxes, so we decide to play more.
Once again, gambling and video games find similarities in this aspect. Many slot machines are designed to stop just one “click” away from a jackpot. In video games, many team games can have your team winning by a lot, only to lose to a spectacular comeback by the enemy team. The players that lost may tend to believe that they were extremely close to winning, which ,motivates them to play again to seek a compensatory victory. In many cases, the same near-win can occur the very next game, leading to a cycle of losing and playing again.
Signs of Video Game Addiction
When it comes to a video game addiction test, the most empirically accurate perspective is from the DSM-V, a manual that contains the criteria to diagnose mental disorders, including addiction. ,In terms of internet gaming, the DSM-V contains 9 symptoms. A person that has 5 or more of these symptoms in the span of a year or more will be diagnosable with video game addiction.
In general, the DSM-V diagnoses a person with video game addiction when the behavior of playing video games intrudes in other aspects of the person’s life, such as skipping school, meals, or having increasingly worse moods when not engaging in video games.
Although a diagnosis of video game addiction carries a definite sign that the person has an unhealthy relationship with video games, the reality is that many people have negative relationships with video games without filling all the criteria on the DSM-V. A person can be preoccupied with playing a video game for days on end, yet their behavior might only match with 3 of the above criteria. In other words, the severity of an addiction is more often placed on a spectrum rather than a categorical measure of either fully addicted or not addicted at all. Thus, the way to decide whether intervention is needed is very much subjective to the parent, and dependent on whether their preoccupation with video games intrudes on other aspects of their life.
How to Break Teenage Video Game Addiction
Establish a Healthy Relationship with Gaming
Good habits are often established before the behavior even begins to manifest. As a parent, it’s important to encourage the use of video games as fun entertainment, while making sure that it’s not used to avoid doing other activities. It can be useful to create an agreement that your child is required to finish all their homework before playing video games, and perhaps rewarding them by buying in-game currency if they get a good grade.
As an Esports Coaching Organization, Vanta Leagues seeks to foster a healthy relationship with gaming by encouraging a growth mindset to improvement, as well as the development of social emotional skills with others. For more information, take a look at how our service helps children play video games within a safe, fun space.
Set Timers or Game Counter for How Long They Will Play
It’s very easy to lose track of time playing video games, which can lead to them forgetting to do important tasks. To combat this, it is useful to help maintain active awareness of the time by setting a timer for how long they’ll play, or a game counter to keep track of how many games they’ve been playing. Understanding that there may be a reluctance to adhere to these time-based rules, it can help to allow some negotiation as well, like having more time to play during the weekends.
Carlson is an ongoing League of Legends coach, writer and streamer at Vanta Leagues. With a Psychology and Counselling background, he hopes to highlight the mental benefits of team video games in his writing, as well as having a healthy mindset when playing ranked games.