Why are computer and mobile games so addictive?
Are you game? Why are computer and mobile games so addictive?
I remember the first mobile game that I started playing. Back in the days of Nokia 3410 mobiles, one of the best things about that phone (apart from the fact that it was unbreakable), was the game SNAKE. Hours were spent playing that game because, let’s face it, back then, phones were nothing like they are today and that was the most exciting feature of the phone!
I do have some addictive personality traits so naturally, I can get drawn to certain activities and quickly become fascinated; but then on the flip side of that, I also can become bored quite quickly!
Candy Crush was my last mobile game ‘addiction’. That consumed hours of my spare time and the frustration when I got stuck on a level drove me to the brink of insanity at times! In this modern age, technology well and truly has integrated into our daily and social lives.
So what is about these games which get us so hooked?
Games provide escapism and separation from the ‘real world’.
One of the most obvious reasons why people opt to enter into gaming, is that it helps to separate us from the ‘real world’; and it is the escapism element that factors into what makes mobile games so addictive.
Dr Joseph F. Chandler, an assistant professor of Psychology of Birmingham-Southern College, commented in an article with NBC News, that ‘Any gamification platform is explicitly designed to make you want to not put it down and is designed to [stimulate the] reward pathway in your brain which can suppress your perception of time.’
It can help with anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions
Some people have reported that games can help with conditions such as anxiety as it offers an alternate sense of reality. Dr Chandler notes that people with anxiety disorders can be particularly attracted to the distraction of mobile games.
Furthermore, for some people, playing video games can offer a form of relaxation making it more desirable and giving a sense of inner peace when they play. A study conducted at University College London and The University of Bath concluded that smartphone shape-fitting games (think Tetris or even Solitaire) can relieve more stress after a hard day’s work than mindfulness apps that prompt breathing or meditation activities (Study Finds, 2019)
It pleases the senses
It comes as no surprise that the video game creators use bright colours and heightened sound effects in order to entice the players into a world where their senses are appeased. It is not a coincidence that colours they use in games are designed to be attractive so that they draw you in. Games offer a complete sensory experience for people which they might not experience in day to day life.
Games can be competitive
There is nothing wrong with some healthy competition and with so many games now offering multiplayer options, we can play with family, friends and connect with people half way across the World! Not only can this offer people the drive to want to achieve something but also can assist with social connection.
Games can be logical
Games generally involve tasks to complete in order to move on to another level or gamers have to play through a story or a quest to move through the game. Generally this can involve puzzles, problem solving and outside the box thinking which can be enticing.
Games can tell a story
Some games are interactive stories; just like reading a book or watching a film, gamers can get immersed into the story and feel like they have a role to play. They get to explore and impact the way the story is told even play around with questions of morality
Games can improve physicality
Some games are reported improve hand eye coordination.
There is an abundance of advantages that come with playing games, however, there can also be pitfalls.
Gaming can trigger a stimuli reaction in the release of dopamine (the pleasure hormone). Although this may be a good feeling, people who experience this feeling once, like with any form of addiction, will continue to chase this feeling consistently.
It can impact people being ‘present’ with others
Game playing can take us away from being present in the real world and into an alternate universe which doesn’t exist. When the lines get blurred and escapism oversteps into obsession, then this can be a dangerous path to go down especially if people start to rationalise the addiction.
Games can lead to squandered intimacy
Dr. Lisa Strohman, a clinical psychologist, author and founder of the Digital Citizen Academy notes that the negative effects of too much mobile gaming can also show in your relationships. She reported that she sees a lot of preoccupation with gaming and that this can lead to relationship neglect and abandonment of responsibilities.
Sleep deprivation or sleep disturbance
Exceeding exposure to entertainment screens produces sleep problems and also can lead to extremely vivid dreams or nightmares!
They can be self-medicating and can cause more anxiety
Though mobile games can be effective in distracting from anxiety, it is important to note that they don’t provide a cure. If you have an anxiety disorder, this can be another way of self-medicating, and it can cause more anxiety in the process.
Can influence aggressive behaviour
There has been an abundance of discussion about how children are increasingly exposed to growing physical and sexual violence present in all media. Some research has shown that the violent content of these media may cause childhood aggression (Anderson 2007).
Furthermore, video games such as “Grand Thief Auto” and “Call of Duty” for over 18 years, are training children to shoot and kill in a virtual world in which the values of life are lost. Other perspectives may challenge the nature of these games; these games may give gamers opportunity to engage in acts that they would not engage in in real life so may provide an outlet to do this without any actual harm to other people. This still remains a controversial topic with further research in this area needing to be explored.
Decrease concentration which can contribute to ADHD
Gamers may experience attention problems. Studies have shown that high speed media content can contribute to attention deficit disorder, as well as decreased concentration and memory (Christakis 2004, Small 2008).
Tracking your screen time, limiting your time on games will help regain a sense of balance and enjoyment in your life without compromising or neglecting other things which may be important. If you or somebody you know feels like they may be experiencing addiction or anxiety, then please get in touch with My Family Psychologist. We offer services in supporting children, adolescents and adults and cater it specifically to your needs.
NBC News. (n.d.). Why mobile games are so addicting — and how to reclaim your time. [online] Available at NBC News [Accessed 13 Aug. 2020]
Screen Time Limit Kid Crono. (2020). Advantages and disadvantages of video games. [online] Available at Kid Crono
[Accessed 13 Aug. 2020]
Study Finds. (2019). Digital Relaxation: Smartphone Games Better For Stress Relief Than Mindfulness Apps, Study Finds. [online] Available at Study Finds [Accessed 15 Aug. 2020].
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