Heroin. Cocaine. PCP. Marijuana. Skyrim. Call of Duty. Bejeweled.
Although technically not a clinical addiction, video games and TV have stolen countless hours from high school and college students across America and if game companies have their way, it’s going to continue.
“Technically or clinically, there is no such thing as TV or video game addiction,” said Dr. Mark Christians, Professor of Psychology. “I’m using the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) and within that, it will describe substance dependence and things related to chemical use that now qualify as an addiction. But there is such a thing as overuse.”
Psychologists haven’t classified video game or TV addiction as a clinical addiction, but will still look for similar symptoms in those who claim to be addicted such as: how often they do it, is it interrupting social relationships, and interfering with daily tasks just like any other type of substance abuse might.
The scariest part, however, is that video game companies are now structuring their games to get you to play them over and over and over again. According to an article on gamasutra.com video game companies can control players’ behavior by introducing a reward system. Basically what this means is that every time you play a video game that allows you to level up, power up, or prestige, you are playing right into the company’s hand. The time and effort you put into the game eventually pay off when you level up. You get a sense of accomplishment and reward by being able to pick certain perks. And after being rewarded, you go right back to playing, collecting experience points to emulate your feeling of accomplishment again.
In Christians’ experience as a therapist, he says that not once in his career has anyone come in seeking therapy for video game or TV addiction. “The big question we have to ask ourselves is ‘Who seeks out therapy for anything?’ That’s a significant decision to step over the threshold and say ‘I’m addicted and I need help’ and from my experience, no one has ever come in for video games or TV. This doesn’t mean we don’t recognize it (overuse) as a problem, but they aren’t seeing as such a huge problem to go see a psychiatrist and get medication.”
According to Christians, the clinical world is doing studies in this field, but is more focused on schools and families, but not in mental health. “It’s not like little Jimmy goes and spends four days in the hospital because he can’t control his urge to play video games.”
The Stanford School of Medicine did a study and found that, while playing video games, the reward center in the brain of men is more easily accessed than in women. The premise of the study was to have men and women play a video game that consisted of guarding a territory by eliminating a ball before it touch the back of your area. The study “showed activation in the brain’s mesocorticolimbic center, the region typically associated with reward and addiction. Male brains, however, showed much greater activation, and the amount of activation was correlated with how much territory they gained.”
Adam McDonald, Head Editor