Over three billion people worldwide play video games, and it’s one of the largest industries in the US. The average person spends a healthy amount of time playing video games without any issues, but for some, the hobby escalates into an issue similar to addictive disorders and can take over their lives.
Like everything, it’s best to play video games in moderation—it’s possible for adults and children alike to develop unhealthy relationships with their favorite games. Let’s talk about video game addiction.
Think that you’re spending too much time playing video games? One of the best ways to play less while still enjoying your hobby is to rethink the games you play. You can play games like Pictoword, Snake.io, and other similar mobile games in bite-sized chunks to create healthier gaming habits. You don’t have to spend hours to progress, and you can play for minutes at a time from anywhere!
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Why Video Game Addiction Is Controversial
Most households in the US have at least one gamer, and many of us know multiple people who play video games regularly. It’s hard to deny that there’s such a thing as “too much” when it comes to playing video games, and it’s easy to say that video game addiction isn’t real—they just need to take a break, right?
While there isn’t a scientific consensus defining when gaming becomes an addiction (or if it’s indeed possible), it’s still an open possibility. And by the APA’s definition of addiction, behavioral addictions like gaming are not seen as a traditional addiction.
There’s another source of skepticism regarding video game addiction—very few gamers exhibit any signs of having a disorder, particularly showing symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. As a result, some researchers and scientists classify the overuse of video games as a habit or symptom of other disorders rather than a true addiction.
Video Games and Screen Times
While there’s some disagreement around video game addiction, there’s no doubt that spending too much time staring at a screen can be damaging. This goes for gaming screens, TV screens, phone screens, and computer screens.
Too much screen time has been linked to:
- Insomnia and poor sleep
- A lack of social skills
- Difficulties with work or school
- Behavioral problems
- Neck and back problems
- Eye strain
Many people have a hard time staying away from screens, despite their potential drawbacks. This is because our brains react to sensory input as if it’s actually happening. For example, you likely have laughed, cried, or even screamed while watching a movie. Video games can elicit a similar reaction, with the brain processing video game scenarios as if they were actually real.
Therefore, playing video games excessively can lead to a state of hyperarousal, where your brain is constantly revved up. Hyperarousal can look different for everyone, but some people experience a state of hyperarousal struggle with controlling impulses, managing emotions, and paying attention.
Chronic hyperarousal can result in physical symptoms, such as irritability, a decreased immune system function, and more. However, you really would only have to worry about this if you were playing video games or staring at your screen constantly.
Why and How Video Games Can Be Addictive
Even if video game addiction isn’t an officially diagnosed disorder, there are people who take it too far, sacrificing their jobs, marriages, or friendships to spend their time playing their favorite games on PC or console. It’s especially prevalent in teenagers and younger children who get aggressive with their parents when told to get off of their game.
Many people have seen or read about cases that show the power of video game addiction. And while it’s not scientific research, the growing awareness and real-world experience of behavioral addictions explain why people are increasingly accepting the concept of video game addiction.
Recently, the WHO added “gaming disorder” to its list of official diseases.
However, the amount of time someone plays video games doesn’t determine addiction. For example, many gamers spend many hours each day playing their favorite games because they enjoy doing it and could stop without too much difficulty. On the other hand, someone with an addiction might know they shouldn’t be playing so much but can’t stop themselves.
When someone “needs” video games to be happy, and they feel miserable when they aren’t playing, it could be an addiction on par with disorders like alcoholism and substance dependence. Withdrawal is what typically defines an addiction, and researchers have documented some possible video game addiction withdrawals, like headaches, insomnia, fatigue, intense cravings, and aggressive emotions.
Video games also affect the brain similarly to addictive substances by triggering the brain to release dopamine—a chemical that reinforces behaviors.
For these reasons, we think it’s safe to say that video games can be addictive, but just because someone plays a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have an addiction.
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What Causes Video Game Addiction?
Some studies identify playing multiplayer online games as the point where video game addiction begins for most people, particularly MMORPGs. These games offer endless adventures in a fantasy world where people can live a completely different life and interface with thousands of others doing the same. When used as an escape from reality, it can cause issues.
Large multiplayer games can also make players feel useful, welcome, and appreciated, which are things they may not feel in real life. Gamers can band together, form friendships, and help each other, and even though the setting is virtual, it doesn’t mean the relationships they make are any less real.
For many gamers, being a part of something and playing an important role with their companions brings more meaning into their lives, which is especially true for people without much real-life social gratification.
For people with video game addictions, playing the game is more than a hobby—it’s a pillar of their self-esteem and an essential part of their social life.
However, the desire for social acceptance and escapism isn’t the only cause of video game addiction. For example, some studies suggest that mental health problems are linked with video game addiction. One study in 2016 found that people dealing with depression are more likely to have a video game addiction to help them cope in an avoidant way. The following year, another study found a correlation between anxiety disorders and video game addiction, although it’s not entirely clear which one relates to the other.
How Do You Know If You Game Too Much?
Next, let’s talk about some symptoms associated with video game addiction:
- Having intense urges to play video games that block out other thoughts
- Spending money on video games that you can’t afford
- Cutting back on recreational and social activities in preference of video games
- Continuing to play video games even when you know they’re causing problems in your life
- Showing signs of anxiety, anger, or irritability when you can’t play
- Lying to others about how often you play video games
- Needing more and more time to play to get the same amount of enjoyment over time
- Neglecting your appearance, health, or hygiene
- Sleeping less to play video games more
- Experience physical issues, like eye strain, migraines, or carpal tunnel
What Can You Do If You Game Too Much?
For those with a serious video game addiction, there are various resources available to help you. From in-person programs to online support groups, there are organizations and communities dedicated to helping those with video game addictions.
For those that don’t have a serious addiction and simply want to limit their playing, remember that too much of anything is bad—including gaming. The way to start is by limiting the time you spend on games, whether it’s on PC, console, or mobile.
If you are the parent of a serious gamer, here are some things you can do to help limit their screen time:
- Follow the screen time guidelines as set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Encourage a balance between video games and other activities, such as playing outside
- Model healthy video game playing and screen time behaviors.
- Require your children to charge all devices outside of the bedroom each night.
- Learn about video game rating categories to ensure your children only play video games suitable for their age.
- Create screen-free times, such as during meals, an hour before bedtime, or other times of the day.
- Model other relaxation methods, such as reading, exercise, or dancing.
Are There Benefits to Playing Video Games?
While many people argue that video games are addictive, there are just as many people who argue that video games are healthy and beneficial.
Here are some of the surprising benefits of playing video games:
Improved Cognitive Abilities
Video games can improve some of your cognitive abilities, including your concentration and visuospatial skills.
Visuospatial ability refers to your ability to remember objects and the connection between objects. This skill can be essential for many everyday tasks, including driving, orienting yourself in a new city, and reading a map.
Spatial ability can also help in the field of mathematics, engineering, architecture, natural sciences, and more.
Enhance Logic and Problem-Solving
A 2015 study from Chinese and Australian research teams showed that gaming improves logic and problem-solving skills.
Scientists did fMRI scans on 27 professional video gamers and found the gamers had more gray matter in their brains and heightened connectivity between certain parts of the brain. This translates to better cognitive abilities, which can lead to better logic and problem solving skills.
Many video gamers play games that require a lot logic, strategy, and planning to achieve goals within the game, so this benefit makes total sense.
Increased Hand-to-Eye Coordination
Gaming can also improve your hand-eye coordination.
A 2014 study from the University of Toronto found that regular games have better sensorimotor skills than those who don’t play video games.
These skills are essential for quicker learning and adoption of tasks that require hand-eye coordination, such as typing, biking, catching a ball, or other tasks that require you to coordinate the movement of your eyes with the movement of your hands.
The study involved 18 gamers and 18 non-gamers. Both groups performed a screen task that involved following dots with a mouse. At first, the two groups seemed to have no major differences.
However, as the test carried on and got repetitive, the gamers performed with more speed and better accuracy than the non-gamers.
Improve Multitasking Abilities
Video gaming can also make you a better multi-tasker. Many video games require players to complete several tasks at a time. For example, if you’re playing a video game that involves combat, you may need to look for your opponent on the screen, keep track of your ammon, and move your character.
You may also be speaking to your friends or teammates through a microphone. Performing all of these tasks simultaneously will undoubtedly improve your multitasking abilities.
Better Decision-Making Abilities
Playing video games can also help you make faster and more accurate decisions in real life, according to a study from the University of Rochester.
The study found that those who played action-packed games were better decision makers than those who played no games or slower-paced games. Action video game players were up to 25% faster at making a decision than slow-paced gamers, and their decisions were more accurate.
The ability to make quick and accurate decisions is crucial in many facets of life, particularly for those who work in fast-paced environments such as hospitals, restaurants, or customer service.
Improve Ability to Perform Tasks
Playing video games may improve your ability to perform tasks quicker and more accurately. One study found that surgeons who played video games recently or in the past had 37% fewer errors than non-gamers.
Additionally, the surgeons completed tasks 27% faster than non-gamers. While playing video games won’t turn you into a world-class surgeon, they can help you complete tasks in your everyday life!
Promote Teamwork and Improve Social Skills
Many people think of video game players as loners. However, this is far from the case. There are many games that require you to be social and cooperate with other players through video chat or text.
Plus, video gaming is often a very popular conversation topic, so it can help you make friends and socialize with your pairs. Nowadays, there are many in-person and online video game tournaments, so you can easily meet like minded individuals from all over the world.
Games like Pictoword and Snake.io are perfect for playing in bite-sized chunks and getting your game on without having to spend hours and hours each day to progress like most other games.
Play Snake.io free on the go or on your PC and enjoy short bursts of play time—You can have minutes or hours of fun; it’s up to you!
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