Is Video Game Addiction Real?

Recently, a study was published in the US which suggested that young men are spending more hours playing  than actually working.

Now, this suggestion did get a lot of people speaking about the idea. As with every potentially controversial study ever published, there are people who agree with the inference and those who disagree with it.

Personally, I don’t really agree with the study and feel that it may suffer from a causation vs. correlation mix-up – I mean people may actually be  video games because they can’t find a job and have free time to kill as opposed to not wanting to work in order to play video games.

I don’t really want to discuss this study because you’ll hear endless arguments about different points, but the idea of people not wanting to work in order to play video games did get me thinking about the idea of video game addiction.

Although the idea of video game  may seem like a laughable prospect at first, there have been several incidences in which the death of gamers or individuals related to gamers have been attributed to video game addiction because, quite simply, the individuals in question can’t stop playing video games.

If you search for it online, you’ll probably find a few pieces about individuals who died after ridiculously long-playing sessions that lasted in excess of 12 or so hours.

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When you just need to win once before you switch off.

When some read these articles, they are often dumbstruck about how a person may have died because either they feel that they have engaged in similar activities and had nothing happen to them or that the person in question was stupid for not taking a break, when they were clearly not feeling well after a while.

The idea of video game addiction itself is one that is very contested. There are a lot of people who believe that it is a growing problem in society as gaming becomes an increasingly popular hobby and then there are those who believe that such suggestions are ludicrous and that most studies into video game addiction are often in some way externally motivated (sometimes by politics or potential funding opportunities), which then skewers the results.

So, is video game addiction really a huge underlying problem within society or is it just another problem created in order to further the aspirations of some?

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I wonder…

In order to answer this question, it may be important to discuss the definition of video game addiction and its symptoms first.

What Is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is defined as a compulsive disorder where a person needs to play a game or increase the amount of time they take part in gaming behaviour to the point that it may actually interfere with their life.

Although it’s included in the DSM-5 as a disorder for further study, video game addiction isn’t an accepted disorder as of yet, so there are a lot of suggested potential symptoms; some of which include gaining a pleasurable feeling from playing that cannot be gained from anything else, lying about how much time one spends gaming, withdrawing from family and essential activities in life, performing poorly at work or school, experiencing irritability when not playing, losing sleep or skipping meals to play, constantly thinking about gaming and spending significant amounts of money on gaming related items.

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Gaming: The world’s newest most addictive drug? (Credit: The Conversation)

Psychologist Joseph Hilgard indicates that the reason why gaming may be so addictive is that it makes use of the brain’s internal reward system. Video games reward players for accomplishing particular goals and in doing so may strengthen the brain’s need to perform the task, as we enjoy performing tasks that reward us.

If one takes this concept and directly applies it to most gameplay situations, one could probably see that video games may really play on the brain’s internal rewards system.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Zombies. (Credit: Activision)

Personally, whenever I think of this idea and an example to explain it, I always think about Call of Duty Zombies. Ultimately, you can’t win at Zombies, but you always want to perform better than you did the previous time you played the map and the simple action of doing so can be extremely rewarding. People can spend hours upon hours trying to achieve this task, especially if they have gone to high rounds in the past.

So, Is Video Game Addiction A Real Problem In Society?

One cannot deny that in some cases the inability to stop playing video games compulsively has ultimately resulted in the death of some people, but this isn’t a fact that is only limited to the activity of gaming.

There are several examples of people dying from the compulsive need to engage in various other activities that may place some strain on the body, such as working out, which also plays on the brain’s internal reward system.

I’m not saying that people can’t get addicted to video games, but that it may not necessarily be the underlying threat to society that some academics and media outlets make it out to be.

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There are those who have been addicted to them gains.

It’s very important to remember that sometimes people engage in behaviour that may fall under the definition provided for , but may not be in any way addicted to video games.

One needs to look at the context of one’s actions. There probably really are people out there who can’t stop playing as nowadays there are people addicted to every sort of activity, but in most situations, this is most likely not the case.

A good example I am able to find in myself is that when I was at university, I often spent hours upon hours playing video games before exams and the reason wasn’t that I couldn’t stop playing, but rather that I was using it as a method of procrastination in my aim to avoid actually sitting down and studying.

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Game of Thrones. (Credit: HBO)

When I moved away to a different university for my graduate years, I didn’t have a medium to game for a while and in that time, my method of procrastination defaulted to reading A Song of Ice and Fire – the Game of Thrones book series.

You don’t, however, really hear about reading addiction pandemics.

I think that the biggest problem with this whole situation is that studies that skewer findings to push a particular agenda create distrust in all research within a particular area– even that which may be valid and this is a major problem as it seems that there have been many instances in this particular area where people tried to push certain agendas.

Whether to believe the findings made in the above-mentioned study is something that one can only decide for oneself. The only thing one can hope for is that the study and all those in future was done in the most objective manner possible.

Do you think that video game addiction is a massive underlying threat to society? Are you addicted to video games? Please share in the comments down below.

[Sources: Fortune; Polygon; WebMD; The Week]

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