Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Never Enough: A Look Inside Video Game Addiction

Video games. Kids tend to think they are amazing while parents generally disagree. The argument adults reach for first and foremost is that games “rot your brain“ or “turn you into a zombie“. This is completely an exaggeration, as we all know. This dispute’s prevalence has even died down in our culture in the past five years.

                                             Just one more level and I'm done, I swear.

Video games, if leaving any negative effect, might cause a sort of desensitization in gamers young and old. While I know that hardcore, lifelong gamers would beg to differ, I also have had many psychology classes and have completed research projects proving otherwise. Consistent stimulation through any medium, be it games or other sources, causes a person’s brain to constantly be primed or seeking the next thrill. When something comes along that doesn’t satiate that need or if the thrill isn’t satisfying, humans are wired to pass over it until they find something else that gives them the response they crave. I’m sure I’ll catch criticism for this, but this need for constant stimulation is similar to illicit drug use.

                                                      Which will Mom hate more?

Video games are fun, don’t get me wrong. I have dedicated tons of hours throughout my life to games. I’ve used them as an escape from reality, as a time killer, and just for their entertainment value because I enjoyed them. You know what else my previous statement regarding video games as an escape, time killer, and entertainer applies to? Drugs. Drug addicts worldwide have been using these reasons to explain and/or rationalize their drug use for years. Not to say that gamers are addicts, just to elucidate the similarities between the two.

On our second class meet, we discussed if it were possible to be addicted to video games. I believe it is. I also believe the percentage of people who are actually addicted to games is a very small number. Like a single-digit-percentage-for-the-entire-world’s-population small number. There are some people who are completely, one hundred percent immersed in video games. They can’t eat, sleep, think, or breathe without the electronic stimulation video games provide. It’s not a nonexistent problem but then again it’s not a widespread problem either. Video game addiction is somewhere in the middle. Most gamers fit within the happy medium between addicted and indifferent. Some would argue that an addiction to video games is harmless compared to something like drugs, but addiction of any type has the potential to become dangerous.


                                                      Must beat game. Must beat game. Must beat game.

If a person doesn’t realize that they are engaging in a behavior that can be hazardous to their health or wellbeing, they’ll never know they’re in danger until they’re already hurting. For example, a person who has been fired from their job because of their preoccupation with games becomes reclusive and doesn’t leave their house for anything. They’ve depleted their bank account buying game related items and/or games. They are so fixated on getting that next achievement or beating that “impossible” boss fight that they haven’t eaten, slept, showered, etc in days. Their body is literally shutting down along with their cognitive functions, and they had no clue because they were so wholeheartedly immersed in that game that reality became a distant past.

I realize that the scenario I’ve presented seems ridiculous and farfetched. If it were, gaming/internet addiction would not be on the list of additions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 i.e. the book the American Psychiatric Association publishes and counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, etc use to diagnose mental illness. The key to maintaining that happy medium is as it is for a lot of things, moderation.

                                                               The DSM 5 is due out May of 2013.

In conclusion, video games are not monsters. They are also not saints. Games can become an addiction or just remain a hobby. The differential between those two extremes is mainly a matter of the person involved, much as it is with drug addiction. Nothing can take over your life without your participation or permission. With that being said, I wish you all happy gaming!

1 comment:

  1. As a parent and a subscriber of an Australian internet service provider, I am responsible for guiding my kids with regard to proper internet usage.

    ReplyDelete