The popularity of video games has brought in another huge problem for mental health experts — video game addiction. In a study conducted on over 3,000 children and teenagers, it was found that almost 72 percent of American households play video games, with the average length of gameplay at 20 hours per week. However, about 4 percent of players were discovered to be addicted to the games, spending nearly 50 hours per week glued to the screens.
Addicted to gaming
Being addicted to video games can ruin a person’s life. There have been cases where players spend 10 to 12 hours every day on the games, only to end up without a proper career or relationship. In 2005, a gamer in South Korea died after playing for 50 hours straight. And in 2012, a man from Taiwan was found dead on his gaming chair. He had died of a cardiac arrest. So why do people get addicted to gaming? To understand this, we must first grasp a curious function of the brain — its reward mechanism.
“A reward system is, basically, a system that governs how the brain feels when we do something — a chore, a job, anything — that results in reward at least some of the time. If we keep getting a reward for the same task, we start to understand the relationship between the two and our brain builds the appropriate connections. It means the next time we come across the chance to do that same task, we assume we’re at least a bit likely to get a gift in return,” according to The Week.
For gamers, the reward is the “high” or the excitement one feels when completing a mission. After a few experiences of this “high,” the person will have to keep playing the game and finishing tasks in order to trigger the feeling again and again. The player has now become addicted to the game.
Symptoms of addiction
The No. 1 symptom of video game addiction is a complete loss of control over one’s life. “Someone who jeopardizes other areas of his or her life to play video games has most likely developed an addiction to the activity. At this point, gamers lose control in terms of not being able to stop playing in spite of the mounting problems caused by continued play,” according to addictions.com.
Video game addiction can also be caused by a pre-existing psychological condition. For instance, people who suffer from depression or loneliness are likelier to get addicted to games, since it will probably be the only way they feel some sort of excitement in their lives. Introverts who do not have an active social life are also susceptible to video game addiction.
The issue of video game addiction has become so huge that many countries are starting to implement stricter laws to control the gaming industry. In China, the government started an intense crackdown on gaming after various reports suggested that more children were beginning to wear glasses due to loss of eyesight caused by constant gaming.
Following directions of the government, China’s biggest gaming company, Tencent, is introducing a new set of rules to identify underage gamers and restrict time they spent gaming. Children who are under 12 years old will only be allowed to play online games for one hour per day. Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 can play up to two hours daily.