Like many others in modern society, I grew up surrounded by technology. Technology in itself has done wonders for society and we, as a global community, will probably never, EVER, look back. With easy, and relatively cheap, access to this technology, however, computers and game consoles (such as the Playstation and XBOX) have exploded into our daily culture and can most likely be found in a large amount of households across not only Australia, but the World.
Easy access to these technologies is not a bad thing in itself, but if we dig just below the surface there is a greater issue at hand; gaming addiction. I would even go as far as to say that gaming addiction is comparable to a drug addiction! Now I know what you are thinking…. ‘Andrew, how could you possibly say that the two are comparable… video game addiction is simply a made up condition …’ Well don’t be too hard on me just yet, I’m going to tell you exactly why I think gaming addiction is a serious, SERIOUS issue in today’s society.
Addiction has a very specific clinical definition, and so whether or not games addiction is at the level of a true clinical disorder, such as drug/alcohol or gambling addiction, is still up for debate. Irrespective of this, on a day-to-day level, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are individuals who are incredibly involved with games – to the extent where it crowds out work, relationships and other crucial life experiences.
DOPAMINE AND GAMING ADDICTION
How can people become so addicted to games though? Well, the fuel that compels gaming perseverance is the brain chemical dopamine. I’m sure most of you reading this are familiar with this chemical, but if you’re not – dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, when released in higher than normal quantities, flows beyond the synapses in our brains and onto other regions of the brain. What does this do? It essentially produces a very power pleasure response.
In other words, dopamine provides positive feedback (reinforces that the activity was correct) for the activity you are performing, whether it be receiving a good grade in a university unit or completing a task in a game. This so called ‘reward’ for completing any sort of task makes the brain want to repeat that action and receive more dopamine-pleasure.
When a person is playing a computer game, especially with progressing tiers of challenge, dopamine is released by the brain after getting to a higher level of play (or killing an enemy multiple times for example) providing feedback that it succeeded in the challenge and made a suitable response. It is these intense bursts of pleasure that entice the brain to seek another fix.
So what happens when a compulsive gamer achieves something in a game? You guessed it, guys! They continue progressing through higher tiers of challenges ‘in-game’, even thru increasing difficulty and more frequent failure, seeking that next positive response. If there is no new challenge in a game, however, the gamer will most likely lose interest as the dopamine reward response will not be triggered and probably move on to a new game in search of new tasks and skills to master – which comes with the added benefit of a cheeky dopamine burst.
‘PFFT, THIS DOESN’T AFFECT ME!!!’
So why should you care? This doesn’t affect the majority of you. In fact in the grand scheme of things, computer game addiction seems relatively insignificant. Often looking under the surface of an addiction will reveal a more troubling story… not always, but a lot of the time there is a reason that somebody has turned to a virtual world; maybe the addict didn’t start spending extravagant amounts of time gaming out of sheer pleasure.
I assure you… Gaming addiction exists; it has all the features you need to classify an addiction (neglect of loved ones, job duties and personal health – sometimes even death) and it may be inflicting somebody close to you.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more, check out ‘BBC’s panorama – videogame addiction’ –
Gaming to death: What turns a hobby into a health hazard?http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/21/opinion/gaming-addiction-risks/
Rudd – ‘An investigation into the effects of online gaming on young people and children’http://www.academia.edu/1980022/An_investigation_into_the_effects_of_online_gaming_on_young_people_and_children
Video Game Addiction: Problem more widespread than expected: