Video game addiction has been likened to compulsive gambling and is affecting children and adults like.
Addiction is said to occur when a behavior is repetitively done despite being harmful and without ability to control this behavior. This can involve substances or processes, such as gaming, gambling, shopping or excessive internet use. Video games have been a source of entertainment for some decades now with more advanced games being released all the time to be enjoyed by people of all ages.
While many people play games in a healthy and balanced way, video games can also become an addiction. Gaming addiction has become increasingly prevalent over the years, with experts warning that it could become even worse as the years go by.
Video game addiction, sometimes referred to as “pathological gaming addiction,” shares similarities with other process addictions and is classified under “other internet addictions” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5 for short).
Like any other addiction, individuals who struggle with video game addiction have poor impulse control, are unable to control their behavior, and will continue playing games despite an apparent negative impact on their life. This addiction can be particularly dangerous for young people, as it often leads to poor academic performance, social isolation, and even physical health problems. The brains of children and adolescents are also still developing and cognitive function can become impaired over time.
Some comparison has been drawn between gaming addiction and pathological gambling though there are arguments that gaming addiction does not result in financial loss. However, compulsive gamers of all ages have been found to also be prone to easily unlocking features requiring financial commitments, similar to gambling. Moreover, slot machines and card games could be considered to be a form of gaming.
Video game addiction is more common than many people realize across all ages. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found that 8.5% of young people in the United States were addicted to video games as compared to a from previous studies, which estimated the prevalence of video game addiction to be around 3%.
The mechanism for which video game addiction occurs is very similar to other addiction. Playing and winning a video game elicits a positive reward system. This causes an increase in release of dopamine – the feel good neurotransmitter in the brain. This reward system mediates a positive feedback mechanism that fuels gaming addiction.
Several factors contribute to video game addiction. One important factor is the design of the games themselves. Games that are highly engaging and rewarding encourage players to continue playing for long periods of time. These elements can include things like achievements, leveling up, and in-game rewards that reinforce the reward pathway of the brain.
Many games are designed to be played with others, whether that be in-person or online. This can create a sense of community and social connection that can be very appealing to those who may struggle with social interactions in their ordinary daily lives.
Video game addiction is a very real problem and steps should be taken to prevent it. One important step is to establish healthy habits around gaming. This includes setting limits on the amount of time spent playing games, as well as taking regular breaks to engage in other meaningful activities.
Overall, it is clear that video game addiction is a real problem that can have serious consequences. While gaming can be a fun and rewarding hobby, it is important to establish healthy habits and to be aware of the potential risks associated with excessive gaming.