Addicted to Gaming – Is it a real thing?

This week a BBC Panorama aired a program called “Addicted to Gaming” aiming to take a look into the lives of people, both young and old that are “addicted” either by self confession or by their loved ones admission to Gaming. It’s got alot of people pointing fingers and chatting about whether or not it should be taken seriously and whether developers like ourselves have anything to answer for. Is anyone really to blame, lets find out?

The young generation of today are playing alot more games! Perhaps due to the explosion of more realistic, engrossing, and multiplayer online games. Of which most of them will tell you, they enjoy playing! Alot would also admit they would probably substitute it for something better to do if it were there and accuse boredom as the reason they play for long stretches. Perhaps thats a good thing? The young generation of today don’t roam the streets making trouble like perhaps the generation of old, or not? Or is that bad, not being street wise, not learning the ropes of life through socialising with others in the flesh……!

Did you know that the UK spends over 3billion £’s a year on gaming, more than we spend on every day commodities such as food! The UK employs over 30,000 people in the game industry and we are widely regarded as one of the best nations of game developers around! Blizzard Entertainments online phenomenon World of Warcraft, has 12million players worldwide! The largest player base of its genre and widely recognised as the most successful gaming franchise of our generation! So are all of these 12million players addicted?

Self confessed gaming addicts will tell you, staying up all night, eating sleeping and playing games for days on end without leaving so much as there room let alone the house is the definition of “addiction to gaming”. But in alot of cases it also involves caffeine fueled diets, lack of sleep and little to no social interaction with the real world! Not healthy I hear you say, you’d be right there! Some players are playing up to 20 hours a day, losing friends and family, disregarding education both higher and compulsory and whats more worrying is that despite demographically speaking the young generation are the most at risk, the age of players addicted to games like World of warcraft ranges right up to the 60′s.

Quoted in panarama some addicted players compared, addictive games as a disease and comparable to drug abuse. While playing they feel immersed and in a different world but the reality if they ever woke up from it, was so hard to face, they’d rather just go back to playing some more.

South Korea has been feeling the effects of super fast broadband

Extreme cases have come out in South Korea which is a country which already boasts that 85% of its population have access to super fast broadband!

A case that came to light lately in South Korea, was that of a couple’s child died of starvation while the couple played an online game called “Prius” online. They played in an internet cafe, down the street called a pc bomb (a specially designed internet cafe for online gaming), whilst leaving the baby at home. Ironically, the game involved protecting a small child from the evils of the world…….who would have known that you could be so immersed in protecting a virtual child that you’d forget about your own!

It was pointed out that research suggests that most people addicted to games, have underlying issues emotionally and mentally, although were not so sure!

“Games are dramatic models of our psychological lives providing release of particular tensions”

The science behind game mechanics is clever, yet still very limited, it actually was compared to a science experiment performed on a rat in which scientists encouraged a rate to push a lever and everytime it did it would get a food pellet. They then monitored if once the rat worked out that everytime it did it, it would do it more and more. Their findings found that it did! Its now often referred to as the Variable rate of reinforcement.

Variable rate of reinforcement

Variable rate of reinforcement, for example could be giving people a button to press and simply giving them a reward for everytime they press it. Creating a compulsion loop. Very simple, but powerful loops can be created just by using the mechanics that the more you press the more you’ll get. Vulnerability to addiction, will just keep you in the game longer than most other people, even with basic game mechanics like this.

So is it anyones fault? Who’s to blame?

If your not addicted to gaming I.E. if it was not there and optional, perhaps its just that you have an addictive personality and perhaps it might just be that if it wasn’t around you would just be addicted to something else….perhaps! Is it really the games fault or is it the persons addictive personality? I could keep writing on a piece of paper and improve my hand writing, but its not “FUN”! Perhaps thats what it boils down too?

As a company dabbling in the field of online gaming, we would never encourage or expect our players to play for up to 20 hours a day, thats just unhealthy. However as makers of online games, if the game wasn’t good, you probably wouldn’t really want to keep playing! Its addictive because its so good, right?

I whole heartedly agree with Blizzard entertainments recent statement about online there games.

“Our games are designed to be fun…..but like all forms of entertainment…..day-to-day life should always take precedence”.

They also go onto say that they are implementing and have implemented, practical tools that assist players and parents in monitoring playing time. Perhaps they could do a little more, maybe a warning “You have been playing for over 5 hours solid, go take a break!” getting more severe the longer the player does not abide by these rules, or perhaps encouraging a set playing time limit, which forces players to logout once every say 4 hours for 30 mins. This might help ensure the player eats and drinks and does other things that he or she should do.

Addiction to anything including gaming is a very real thing, so addiction to gaming like any other addiction must be taken seriously. Sitting a chair all your life is damaging to your health, just like smoking is damaging to your mouth and lungs. I wouldn’t go so far as to say its quite the same, but seriously…….take a break, remember gaming is to be enjoyed “responsibly”.

Our advice to any gamer:-

“Put the controller down and take a deep breathe, ring a friend, speak to family, go out or even just switch it off!”

Blog written by Dave

I am one of the Directors of Bytewire and I like to blog about lots of different and interesting stuff surrounding the website design and development world.


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