“Hi. My name is Josh Bruce, and I am an addict. A gaming addict.”
Imagine walking into your local 12-step addiction support group and saying something like that. Responses from other attendees may range from being laughed out the door by people with “real” addictions, to getting beaten without remorse by a circle of former heavy drug users on your local high-school’s gym floor. There is, of course, the slim chance of acceptance, but most likely, you would be told to get over yourself and to get the hell out, because gaming is not a “real” addiction.
However, there are those who disagree. A recently released study from the University of Missouri details who is susceptible to forming an addiction to video games and some of the risk factors. You can take a look at the video report of the study below.
One of the leaders of the study, Joe Hilgard, defines three major risk categories that tend to be present in those with a serious gaming problem.
“The biggest risk factor for pathological video game use seems to be playing games to escape from daily life. Individuals who play games to get away from their lives or to pretend to be other people seem to be those most at-risk for becoming part of a vicious cycle. These gamers avoid their problems by playing games, which in turn interferes with their lives because they’re so busy playing games.”
The sad truth here is that almost any addiction can be a product of an individual’s need to escape daily life. Alcoholism and heavy drug use are prime examples of what can happen to someone that uses a method of escapism to cope with their problems. But isn’t gaming a better, healthier way to achieve a sense of escapism? If the alternative is diving into a bottle of Jim Beam or turning into a crack-head, I am going to have to vote yes.
“People who play games to socialize with other players seem to have more problems as well. It could be that games are imposing a sort of social obligation on these individuals so that they have to set aside time to play with other players. For example, in games like World of Warcraft, most players join teams or guilds. If some teammates want to play for four hours on a Saturday night, the other players feel obligated to play or else they may be cut from the team. Those play obligations can mess with individuals’ real-life obligations.”
Not to toot my own horn here, but I have been talking about this for years. People who are socially awkward in their everyday lives have the ability to thrive under the anonymity of the Internet, not having to deal with any of their personal limitations in a social setting. After getting a taste, these people seem to gravitate toward their online persona to fill the void of social interaction they have in their life–a void that has come about through both social circumstance and personal neglect. Just my humble opinion.
“Gamers who are really into getting to the next level or collecting all of the in-game items seem to have unhealthier video-game use. When people talk about games being ‘so addictive,’ usually they’re referring to games like Farmville or Diablo that give players rewards, such as better equipment or stronger characters, as they play. People who are especially motivated by these rewards can find it hard to stop playing.”
I don’t see this particular portion as a part of the formula for gaming addiction. Finding loot and leveling up a character is just part of gaming as a culture. While I can see how this could be a supporting factor to other, more deeply seeded problems for an individual, I find it hard to blame a game for giving players what they want in a game as being an addictive quality. Again, just my humble opinion.
At the end of the day, a person who’s having problems in their life is going to find some sort of outlet to cope. Whether that outlet is drinking, drugs, exercise, or video games is going to be a choice that individual makes for themselves. But ask yourself this–isn’t playing a game excessively better than hitting the crack pipe on a daily basis? It certainly has to be cheaper. I mean, I can imagine it would be. Yep, I’ll be escaping from my personal deep-seeded social and emotional incompetence with video games for years to come. Addiction be damned.