Video games and addiction
Is it addictive?
An addictive substance is something outside of normal nutrition needs that can change the chemical balance in an individuals body such that without the outside influence of this substance they display symptoms of withdrawal.
For any drug or chemical, there needs to be a certain sustained level of use for the drug to take effect. For instance an individual taking a twice a day drug may not notice a change for the first few days of taking it because the amount of it in their body is constantly rising and falling due to intake and excretion. When the human body adjusts to the level of the drug being present, the individual builds up a tolerance, and sometimes a dependence on it.
A tolerance is when the body is resistant to the effects of a drug that is being used, however an addiction or dependency is when the body grows accustomed to the level of a drug present in the blood stream and when that level begins to drop, withdrawal symptoms will occur.
So does this mean video games can be addictive?
Yes and No. Video games can be addictive just in the same way that gambling can be addictive, however there is some debate as to if this is a true addiction or not. There are some instances where some addiction clinics will no longer treat video game addiction with the same steps that other addictions are treated because they have found that the cause of the addiction is not really a nutritional dependency, but rather is caused by underlying sociological problems. In short, it's a symptom of something rather than being the problem itself. The 'addiction' may sprout from awarding the individual with something that they don't get in their everyday life. The other possibility is that they are addicted to the physical state that the game puts them in, but not necessarily the game itself.
Being powerful, winning in a fight against their enemies, being able to beat a scripted event with a group of their friends: these can all give a player a bit of an emotional high and because emotions are communicated through chemicals within the body, when a game is played for periods of time that are longer than normal, it can lead to an addiction or dependency.
The system in which many online video games function is to give the player rewards for putting a large amount of time into the game so that a large amount of dedication is needed on the part of the player to progress. What keeps a player going for so long is the desire to be more powerful or more 'wealthy' in terms of the game so that they can either have bragging rights amongst their circle of friends, their server, or them self. This, in combination with the potential of the person withdrawing from society is the real danger.
In the true sense of the word 'addiction': video games can cause other sociological issues that individuals have to stem into a video game addiction, but video games themselves do not directly influence an individuals nutritional levels and thus are not a true addiction.
Does this make games bad?
No! This does not make games bad or evil. In the same way may things that have the potential to be addictive, video games have some benefits to playing them.There have been numerous studies showing the positive side of video games such as showing a games ability to teach the scientific method to the players.
As mentioned above, the 'addiction' is likely formed by the emotional high a player gets when playing the game, but for a player to get to a sustainable level of this emotional high so that the addiction is formed, other stimuli as well as extended play times are needed to cause that kind of escalation in combination with over playing the game.
This brings another question to mind. Is it bad to be 'addicted' to fun? People pursue fun because it solicits a positive mental stimuli. Different things will be fun for different people. There are some that claim to be addicted to exercising due to the chemical reaction it causes in their brain.
Just playing a game itself is not enough to get addicted to it. Likely for individuals that have become addicted and in some case, neglected caring for them self to the point of death, there is a high probability that the achievements granted by playing the game were making up for something they were lacking in childhood.This can consist of not enough attention as a child, getting the wrong kind of attention, or being ignored by peers during critical moments in their life.
Also video games are, though some refuse to admit it, a form of artistic expression and censoring them is illegal in accordance to the first amendment of the constitution.
How can this be avoided?
many of the sociological problems that may lead a person to be 'addicted' to video games are problems that are wrong with modern day society and will not be able to be addressed on a wide scale. Any situation that will cause a person to be hurt or have lower self esteem can increase their potential of using video games, drugs, or other things to detach themselves from reality and escape their pain. These kinds of situations are very hard to prevent since there is only so much an individual can control, but there are some things that can be done.
Moderate the amount you or your child plays games. There is a chance that if the child recieves enough care and positive reinforcement from their peers and parents that the addiction will be impossible or at the very least less likely to take hold. However ensuring a healthy balance in life between things like exercise and video games is just as important as having a healthy balance between work and non work related activities.
Four hours a day for a typical child is probably safe, but there are many individuals that can go for much longer without any adverse effects occurring.