Video games are swiftly dominating the world of electronic entertainment across the globe. According to Lee, Cheung, and Chan (2015), video game addiction is an extreme and compelling engagement in video gaming. The rapid increase of gaming platforms including online and offline games has contributed to the increased obsession with video games for both children and adults. Most video game players can multi-task various demands of employment, school, sports, and social life. With time, gaming becomes an addiction, and some of these tasks are neglected to create more time for gaming.
Most young people have fallen victims of video game addiction particularly those who lack self-esteem in their daily life. With the seductive experience associated with gaming, young people have realized their ability to command armies, drive fast, and perform an array of amazing things in a virtual world without real-life repercussions. Similarly, when people experience challenges in socializing in real-life, video games provide an easier way to make friends in the virtual world. This paper will review current studies to show that video games such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have become a source of addiction to many people. This addiction is prevalent because video games have the ability to satisfy various psychological needs due to the range of interactive platforms.
Video games emerged as an outburst of science related research targeting the field of artificial intelligence. Following the vast growth of computer technology through the early 1950s, computers were designed to become sophisticated and dynamic enough to carry out an array of functions. Early video games were restricted to organizations and scientific research simulations. During the 1970s, commercialization of the video games begun but it was too costly to transform the game into mainstream entertainment. Throughout the 1980s, computer games evolved rapidly due to the reduced prices of Intel processors and increased familiarity with the video games by American consumers. Games such as Super Mario, Nights into Dreams and the Virtual fighter are few examples of video games that have gone through a tremendous transformation to serve the changing demands of customers.
Late in the 1990s, the Nokia Corporation introduced mobile phone gaming by installing the Snake game. This game gained huge popularity as it could take a short time and keep people busy such as when in the bus. Within the last decade, both computer and mobile phone games have undergone innovation to produce very flexible and portable game systems to meet the demands of the current market (Wood & Griffiths, 2007). Currently, the online gaming has ascended to prominence following the proliferation of affordable internet connectivity across the world.
The proliferation of video games has caused what video game proponents refer to as media publicity to a serious debate that warrants an immediate attention. Panic has ensued since billions of people have joined this fantasy world. The big worry is the lack of potential by video game players to quit the behavior when they want or when it is necessary. Unlike in the past, the expectations of players have bulged; thus, compelling the game developers to work around the clock to meet these needs. Consequently, video games have become more flexible and realistic with the introduction of the 3D experience.
Purpose of the study
This study seeks to show that video game addiction is real and prevalent among people of all ages. The second aim will be to highlight the risk factors associated with video game addiction among players. In this light, the paper will examine predictors of gaming behavior such as escapism, gratification, gaming as a means of self-efficacy, and dysfunctional coping with real life experiences. This paper will also evaluate social predictors such as lack of success in recreational events and poor socialization as linked to behavioral challenges that exacerbate the risk of game addiction. For the purpose of this study, video gaming addiction will be categorized into two sections but both will be discussed from a similar perspective. First, the standard video games are developed to engage a single gamer. These games are designed to meet specific missions such as hitting a preset standard. The second and most prevalent video game addiction is linked to multiplayer online games. These games are highly addictive because they have no ending and often generate virtual relationships among online gamers (Wood & Griffiths, 2007).
How can video gaming turn out to be addictive? What are the effects of extreme video game playing? Do video games provide an escape to reality as many proponents of gaming allege?
Over the past decade, the world has experienced many tragic incidents about addicted gamers. Current research has established that more than three million Americans past the age of seven could be struggling with game addiction. This gaming dependency is reported to have joined the mainstream health disorders, and no meaningful medical intervention has been identified. The developments in video gaming have raised concerns among parents, employers, and educators that the time lost by students and workers on gaming has contributed to the addiction of video games. Video games have manifested a structural commonality to other addictive activities such as gambling; thus, it has the potential to bear common psychotropic dependency risk among gamers (Marcovitz, 2011).
Following the increased criticism pointing that excessive video gaming does not define addiction, this study seeks to refute such claims on the basis that excessive gaming has adverse consequences for the player. Undoubtedly, utilizing a lot of hours performing a certain activity does not necessarily translate to addiction. Similarly, there are arrays of activities that individuals repeatedly do for long periods and they are not categorized as addictive. For example, reading, playing pitch football or worshiping are among the socially recognized activities. However, it is worth noting that there have to be some adverse effects to qualify a behavior as addictive. Most common negative effects might be a dependency to a certain activity and neglecting the essential daily roles, relationships, work or education (Marcovitz, 2011). Therefore, it is against this scrim that this paper seeks to evaluate game dependency as a deep problem within the contemporary society.
Research on the issue of addiction to video gaming is still in its preliminary stages. There is yet no substantial evidence to prove that excessive and compulsive video game is a diagnosable addiction. However, research has identified various risk factors associated with excessive gaming making this subject a research priority among psychologists and clinicians. According to Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Bartholow (2013) regarding a survey on gaming addiction, they established a connection between reward pathways in the brain and addiction. Hilgard et al. (2013) identified that when individuals perform a task that induces human brain reward system the information sticks into the brain.
These researchers defined a reward system as the setup that dictates how the brain feels after accomplishing a task. If one is rewarded for the same task repeatedly, one begins to acknowledge the bond between gaming and reward, and then the brain creates the necessary links. If the same opportunity is presented again, people tend to expect rewards in return. However, video games are designed to command this part of human brain. It is very seductive to create havocs, defeat monsters and beat records. The winner is rewarded with points, smooth music, and yet there are no real-life consequences when one fails.
The virtual rewards and bonuses contribute largely to the psychology of addiction. These rewards make people feel motivated to become mighty within their virtual life. However, many people forget that such achievements come at a cost. Due to addiction, gamers are compelled to spend a lot of time on their computers since they are held by social responsibilities of the virtual world. For instance, online games such as World of Warcraft entail many participants fighting in groups; thus, most gamers join a club to assist their members (Hilgard et al., 2013). This means that a gamer has a responsibility in the virtual world to defend their teams. This creates true addiction since the gamer has to remain online playing games for long hours.
Spending excessive time on the same activity can be consequential. In a previous survey conducted by Kneer, Rieger, Ivory, and Ferguson (2014) they established that out of the 200 video game players interviewed revealed that more than 80% of their time is lost through gaming or doing activities related to gaming. Some participants were remorseful for wasting a lot of time, but majority argued that they found gaming relaxing and created partial relief from the stressing events of every day. This extreme devotion to the virtual world has made many people neglect their daily roles at the expense of video gaming. Researchers have suggested that the more time an individual utilizes while playing games, the less time s/he has to devote to meaningful roles. For instance, most studies conducted concerning children school performance and the amount of time used playing video games indicate that gaming addiction has adverse effects on education. Poor performance, dropping from school and missing lessons are just but a few consequences of video game addiction (Kneer et al., 2014).
Psychological effects of gaming
Based on previous studies it is certain that video games present a handful of benefits and adverse consequences to an individual and the society. Psychological effect entails the feeling and behavior that is generated when individuals participate in video games. Such benefits include self-efficacy in regards to brain coordination, effective hand-eye coordination, and improved tolerance level to practical activities. The primary concerns include excessive loss of time, social isolation, cost factors, and negligence of important life events. Due to the excessive commitment to video games, the benefits become insignificant since a lot of time and money is wasted. When the concerns outweigh the benefits of gaming, then video games qualify to be detrimental.
In a bid to exploit the psychology of players, video game developers use both sound and visual effects to immerse the gamer in the play and interfere with their time management skills. Soothing music and sound effects are perfect additions that are meant to reinforce the player’s positive and negative feelings regarding their progress in the game. According to Weinstein (2010), game developers target to build a lucrative experience by incorporating audio and visuals. The audios are embedded in the game in such a manner that matches the motion of the immediate environment with the virtual environment. Employing such sounds makes the players more attached to learn what aspects of the game they have mastered and what they have not done well in a contest.
High score recordings were developed with earlier game systems to make gamers feel honored and masters of certain games. Currently, most online video games have high score listings showing to the world the people that hold records in particular games. Players depict emotional struggles and devotion while competing to surpass the records. The high score listings make the player feel superior and motivated to devote more time to video game play and probably rise to prominence in the virtual world. Besides, trophies and bonus systems assist players to compare with their competitors. Winners often express a lot of gratification when they are on top of their peers.
In most cases, video games are not the primary problem to what results to psychological consequences associated with video gaming addiction. Beginners join various video games to find solutions to their problems. Skoric, Teo, and Neo (2009) identified that individuals with low self-esteem opt to join the fantasy world where they emerge as massive killers and masters of technical skills that are hardly unachievable in the real world. Therefore, players can escape from life realities for the time they are busy gaming but at the end of the day, their problems exacerbate.
Due to lack of proper way of screening, most people are mistakenly labeled as addicts when the root of their problems is something different. However, when gaming turns out to be the immediate escape of life problems, the issue of dependency might arise. Even though gaming is fun and recreational, video games have no potential to drive away real life problems as the proponents of gaming claim. Video games can only postpone actual problems and relief stress for the period an individual is hooked to the play. In a bid to sustain this feeling of safety within the virtual world, players end up spending a lot of time gaming thus risking the possibility of game dependency.
Video gaming is associated with various health complications as well as withdrawal effects that may even cause the death of a player. Prolonged gaming may result in physical effects such as backaches, migraines, obesity, eating, and sleeping irregularities among others. Backaches are the most common physical indication for video game addiction. Gamers are often compelled to stay glued to the same position for many hours. This lack of mobility results in back stiffness. Besides, when gaming becomes an addiction, it can lead to chronic back complications. A migraine is a serious headache that emanates from one point and gradually advances, getting more severe with time (Marcovitz, 2011). Gaming addicts are more vulnerable as compared to partial gamers because migraines become severe with an increase in concentration and the extra strain subjected to the eyes.
Eating irregularities are common with most addicted gamers simply because they do not like taking breaks while playing. Consequently, gamers abandon eating healthy, and they opt to take junk foods as they play. Such unhealthy eating contributes to obesity among most gamers. Similarly, due to low rates of movement, gamers rarely exercise their bodies making them more susceptible to heart diseases. Sleep irregularities slowly generate disturbances including nightmares, insomnia, and sleep apnea among other sleep-related disorders. In intense cases, the player may opt not to break for meals at all and even starve to death.
Benefits of video gaming if controlled
According to Graham (2014), video games have an educational value to players. This study has identified substantial success when video games are developed to serve a certain problem or develop competence. For instance, players have manifested improvement in primary reading skills, language, basic mathematics, and interpersonal skills. In many instances, video games have been used as a training aid for severely impaired students to improve their communication and coordination skills. Individuals with poor attention skills improve their attention level through gaming.
If video games are used correctly, video games can have many positive impacts on learning both in a classroom and on vocational training. The benefits on the community can be realized gradually over time if games are utilized more to meet educational needs. When used for education purposes, research has clarified that video gaming benefits surpass the drawbacks (Floros & Siomos, 2012). Contrary, if students are allowed to play excessively, there is a possibility that they will get obsessed and result in adverse psychological effects on their daily life.
Gamers should not live in denial of the fact that they are dependent on video games. Since video games have depicted they have positive potential when used for development purposes, gamers should not quit, but they should learn to manage time wisely. It is due time for the multi-billionaire industry developing video game systems to reflect and see how they can regulate gaming. It is highly recommendable for this industry to devise ways to regulate time spent per session.
For instance, inbuilt cut off systems can be helpful to determine when to end or start a new session. Additionally, individuals must understand that too much of playtime is harmful to one’s health and social life. Gaming addiction has all traits needed to categorize an addiction. Students are missing classes, married people are separating, and many people are losing jobs. However, since there is mounting evidence to qualify excessive gaming as an addiction, the American Medical Association should stand firm and declare video game addiction as a diagnosable disorder (Graham, 2014).
The effects of video game addiction vary from one player to another depending on their degree of engagement. The severity of adverse effects may not necessarily be linked to the level of addiction. As highlighted earlier in this paper, an individual who joins gaming while already in a questionable state of physical or mental health will be more vulnerable to these consequences from the onset. Playing video games just for fun and recreation is harmless. Furthermore, apart from fun, most games have benefits such as improving language skills, decision-making capabilities and improve self-esteem. Unfortunately, not many gamers can control the time spent playing. Occasionally, gamers who are tempted to evade reality and stick to playing, they eventually become addicts and less useful to the society.
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Kneer, J., Rieger, D., Ivory, J., & Ferguson, C. (2014). Awareness of Risk Factors for Digital Game Addiction: Interviewing Players and Counselors. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12(5), 585-599.
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Skoric, M., Teo, L., & Neo, R. (2009). Children and Video Games: Addiction, Engagement, and Scholastic Achievement. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 567-572.
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