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Should Gaming Companies be Concerned about Addiction?

by Antonio Torres on 10/31/18 10:40:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

The idea that someone could be addicted to video games is not anything new. The concept has been floating around for thirty years or more, but it is not until recently that Internet Gaming Disorder(IGD) has taken physical form (on a trial basis since it is a condition for further study). The majority of gamers aren't addicted to their devices, even some really intense players. However, addiction to games is possible, and that is enough to signal to game developers that they must adapt to (and maybe even educate players about) the realities of gaming.

What Gets Gamers Hooked

Sense can't always be made from people's addictions, whether apparent or controversial. However, most can relate to obsessing over (or consistently returning to) a pleasurable activity. Most game players are not addicted, but those who are addicted are going back for the increasing rewards and, likely, the social components. Additionally, gambling components (like loot boxes) are present in some already attention-grabbing games.

The consequences of “gaming disorder” are subtle in comparison to other addictive behaviors like gambling or alcohol (which can cost large amounts of money or take a noticeable toll on the body). Speaking of the body, it can shut down after gaming for hours on end (and sometimes days). Multiple cases of gamers dying at their devices have been reported. For most, this isn't the case. Instead, their relationships disintegrate and their jobs suffer.

Diagnostic Criteria for IGD

The diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder gives us an idea of what it looks like. (Note: people should be careful not to exaggerate the severity of the issue by confusing a pleasurable activity with an addiction.) This disorder is characterized by the following nine criteria. Five of the nine criteria must be present before diagnosis can be made:

  1. Preoccupation. Those who may be addicted to gaming think about games a lot, even when they're not playing.
  1. Withdrawal. Like with any addiction, gamers may get restless if unable to play their games.
  1. Tolerance. Addicted gamers feel the need to play more often or more powerful games.
  1. Reduce. At some point, addicts realize where their attention lies. Even though they feel they should play less, they fail to.
  1. Continue despite problems. Once it has been made clear that excessive gaming is having a negative effect on their lives, they may continue with their games despite the negative impact.
  1. Deceive. Anyone who wants to keep going down a road will do what they can to stay on it. Those who play excessively (or have an addiction) certainly lie about the amount of time they spend with their games.
  1. Escapism. We all need an escape from reality from time to time. Playing games is one way to reduce anxiety or stress, but trouble strikes when a dependence is developed.
  1. Give up other activities. People who are developing a hobby will find they must put some things aside for a time in order to participate. However, some find their relationships and even job suffering from neglect, because so much energy is exerted in the gaming world and not enough is given to reality.
  1. Risk. Gamers with serious addiction problems find themselves risking important relationships or a job because they spend too much valuable energy with their devices.

Most simply, those with a gaming disorder play often and for long hours, they allow their games to take increasing priority over other activities, and they continue with their addictive behaviors despite what it costs them. Addicts in question should exhibit these symptoms for at least twelve months before an official diagnosis can be made.

Seeking Treatment

Gaming addiction is prevalent in some societies more than others. Currently, China and South Korea seem to have the most noticeable problems, particularly with addicts becoming violent if they feel their gaming is threatened. It's hard to tell if gaming addiction compares better to a substance abuse disorder or an impulse control behavior. It's also debatable whether IGD is actually a disorder or a behavior that masks underlying disorders.

Excessive gaming, and possibly IGD, may be a symptom of an already present depressive state, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), but much research has yet to be done. Those who exhibit addictive behavior should get help, but it is unclear as of now what the best help is exactly. Treatment centers for gaming addicts have been slowly cropping up over the world in the attempt to answer these questions.

Responsibility of Game Developers

Game developers should be aware of the possibility of Internet Gaming Disorder. Less than ten percent of the population is estimated to have this addiction to game playing. The possibility of addicted gamers having developed the habit to cover up a deeper issue is likely, which is just one reason why further study is being done. Gaming might be a fun time. However, a time cap should perhaps be placed on gaming sessions to keep from developing a dependence or addiction to the game system, and game developers should respect the possibility by taking responsibility with their next creation.


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