It’s no wonder that video games are addictive — they’re designed to be. As with any business, video game designers want to get their products to as many consumers as possible, and they want those consumers to use their products as much as possible.
Addictive by Design
Modern video games, although extremely imaginative and diverse, tend to follow two formulae. Standard video games — the original variety — finish with a specific goal: the player attempts to save the world, score on his opponent, win a race, achieve a high score, etc. While these can be addictive, they lack an important element that makes multi-player online games so addictive. This second type of game has only popped up in the past 20-25 years. Multi-player online games add a social element. These games often feature a huge virtual world — there isn’t really a final goal or end to the game. These types of games tend to be much more addictive than the first type because of the social aspect.
Video game developers have spent countless hours and millions of dollars making their games as appealing as possible. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how teens can easily become addicted. It isn’t quite as easy to see, however, the point where a healthy appreciation for gaming crosses the line to addiction. While there is no video game addiction test, there are specific warning signs that can make it easier to identify when gaming has become a problem.
Signs of Addiction
Any drastic personality change in your son or daughter should raise a red flag, and probably merits a sit-down talk. Here are a few other signs that the gaming might be getting out of hand:
Psychological Effects & Behaviors:
- • Lies about time spent gaming
- • Anger, depression, anxiety, or irritability when not gaming
- • Feelings of uncontrollable pleasure or guilt while gaming
- • Unhealthy eating habits
- • Takes more time gaming to achieve the same high as before
- • Withdraws from friends & family
- • Thinks obsessively about gaming when not gaming
Not all signs of gaming addiction are behavioral. Often, as the addiction progresses and more time is spent gaming, physical effects will begin to appear:
- • Fatigue caused by irregular sleep patterns
- • Poor personal hygiene
- • Migraines or severe headaches due to intense concentration & excessive screen time
- • Backaches from staying seated in the same position for hours
- • Carpal tunnel syndrome
Of course, the physical symptoms worsen as the addiction progresses — that’s why it’s important to treat the problem as quickly as possible. Backaches, for example, begin as simple muscle strain but can progress into chronic, lifelong pain if left untreated for too long.
Anything can be harmful when it’s done excessively. Video games, while not inherently unhealthy, can be harmful if they’re allowed to take over important aspects of one’s life. When you see that your son or daughter has developed an unhealthy addiction, your first response should be to sit down and talk with them. If necessary, it may be a good idea to talk with their teachers and counselors. If the addiction has reached the stage where none of these interventions help, it is time to look into professional therapy. Outback’s Unplugged program can get your child back on the right path and give them more confidence and self-worth. The process isn’t instant, but it’s well worth the effort. The beauty of Outback is that you’ll know that your child is getting the help they need in the safety of an AEE-accredited wilderness therapy program.