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Why are Video Games Addictive in Nature

Why are Video Games Addictive in Nature
Turns out that when your parents scolded you for playing video games too long were right to do so. You know smoking can be addictive, deal with video games being addictive now! You no more need to consume a substance to have an addiction. Wonder, how an entertainment can be addictive?
Urvashi Pokharna
Although video game addiction has not been classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychological Association (APA), it has nevertheless caused severe health problems amongst those hooked on to the recreational activity. In fact, it is responsible for the death of a 26-year-old obese man in China who engaged in 50 hour-long video gaming marathon! Well, according to any non-video gaming addict, this would definitely classify as a form of addiction.
The statistics of a Harris Poll conducted in 2007 revealed that as much 8.5% youth in the United States fall under the category of video-gaming addicts. However, about 23% respondents of the same poll thought of themselves to be addicted to video gaming. Stanford University concluded in a separate study that video gaming is indeed addictive in nature. Alarmingly, the average video gaming addict is now a 30-year-old male!
Do you wonder how a recreational activity aimed to entertain children can be addictive? Parents, move on from the fear of your children getting addicted to smoking, drinking or taking drugs! You now need to worry if your prepubescent child or adolescent is getting addicted to video games. This is addiction of technology at its earliest in human life. For so long, many people have wondered what makes a video game addictive? What is it that makes young people prefer the virtual world over reality? Let's throw some light on the reasons for addiction to the video games.
Why are Video Games Addictive?
We know about the aftermath of a video game addiction on the health, personal life, social and even professional life of an addict. However, the addiction starts with the two-fold effect of a video game on the gamer. It causes a chemical reaction in the brain of any person indulging in the activity and also has a psychological influence. Both these negative effects of video games lead to the development of an addiction.
Physical Addiction
Almost all video games offer an opportunity for exploration of the unknown in an unfamiliar environment, and give rewards for it. You'd never know what's hidden in their world unless you have a first hand experience. And, there is the thrill of defeating the bad guys, saving your life and winning the game. It is a virtual 'near death experience'. Playing video games causes excitement among gamers by significantly elevating the heart's pulse rate by increasing the release of dopamine, a catecholamine (neurotransmitter and hormone) that aids in learning new behavior and produces the feelings of pleasure and motivation.
Hence, gamers start associating video games with the feeling of 'adrenaline rush' and thrills. Since this emotional and mental state can be addictive, a video gamer looks forward to these feelings more and more which leads to the increase in the duration video games are played. In simple words, a gamer gets hooked on to the feelings created by video games. The same phenomenon can be noted in the case of addiction to smoking, alcohol or drug addiction. The release of dopamine is greater while playing violent games that include blood and gore.
Psychological Addiction
Another Level, Another Reward
The basic design of most video games is based on the objective of completing one level, in order to move on to the next level. Since these levels are possible to finish in a short span of time with the reward of being promoted to a higher level, it creates a false sense of achievement and superiority complex amongst children and youth. The feeling of achievement and/or setting a record gives a euphoric sensation.
Now, every one likes to feel accomplished and the majority of the video gamers fall in the age group of 8 to 18 years, which is a very vulnerable period in a person's life, as he/she goes through physical, emotional and psychological changes. Hence, they develop an addiction to the happy feelings. Since these are only temporary, they are lured in to keeping them up by prolonging period of gaming.
New Way of Socializing
Suddenly video games have become a new form of socializing, which takes place between the characters that the gamers are role-playing. Multi-player games or MMORPG often give off a delusive sense of interaction with others. As a person interacts less with the real world due to increased gaming, they seek to forge unreal friendships through video games to fulfill their need to interact with other people and have social relationships. Simulation games have become a new fad among gamers, and mimics real life settings with fictitious set-up and allows gamers to live an alternate reality.
Video games bring out the competitive streak in young adults. This is also the cause of aggressive behavior in real life situations among gamers. The line between the world of video games and reality starts to blur. Being able to outdo oneself and others by breaking records, setting new ones, achieving a higher ranking gives gaming addicts the boost to stay engaged in this activity for hours at a stretch. This is a great way for them to ignore problems in their real lives. In fact, video games provide an outlet to transport to a different world full of opportunities to explore new things and leave the real one behind. Those who do not fit in with their peers, often seek solace in such activities to fulfill their need for real relationships.
The bright and colorful graphics of video games often leave an impression on the mind of the gamer. The video game developers keep coming up with newer or upgraded versions of games so fans are impelled to keep buying and playing them. Also, the ability to fight ruthless monsters from the comfort of your own home, and whilst being in a safe environment can also lead to the development of an obsessive compulsive behavior, which becomes an addiction to video games.
Make it Worth Every Dime
Many video-gaming companies limit the usage of video games unless gamers pay a certain fee which may be the price of purchase or a monthly subscription fee in order to fully access the video games and play all levels. This encourages gamers to keep playing for long hours in order to take full benefit of the price paid for the video game, and play it as much as possible.
Watch out for signs of video gaming addiction, if your child spends most of his summer vacations indulging in playing them. Yes, boys are more prone to it than girls because the sense of reward is greater in male psychology because of the chemical make-up of their brain. This fact was also noted in the Stanford University's study. It is best to control video gaming addiction in your children from the beginning than to wait for it to fade away with time. If your child has already developed a severe addiction to video games, you can send him to rehabilitation centers already devoted to the cause.