Video games: what makes them addictive

Addicted to Pokemon GO? Can’t pull yourself away from The Witcher 3? The overwhelming majority of gamers are well aware of the feeling when it is almost impossible to tear yourself away from the monitor, smartphone screen or TV during the game, and no matter what exactly it is about – about another exciting quest from an entertaining RPG or about another attempt to get a perfect score in Angry Birds.

Video games are addictive. It’s a fact: there is no doubt about the existence of video game science. Moreover, studies show that every member of the gaming community has come across its manifestations in one way or another. However, despite the unsubstantiated claims of certain individuals based on scientific data, there is no dependence on video games, since it is several times less harmful – one might say practically harmless – compared to addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling.

There is nothing to be surprised at: firstly, unlike “addictions”, video games do not in any way affect the state of health, relationships with society, family life or finances of the players. Secondly, video game addiction can be easily stopped.

Still, video games are addictive. So what exactly keeps us chained to our consoles, our smartphone, when we are perfectly aware that we have already spent too much time on the toy? Well, let’s find out.

Perception of color
Don’t be surprised, but you have three brains. Your brain is made up of three functionally independent parts. The new brain is a conscious, logical mind; everyone knows well how it works. The midbrain is responsible for emotions. The old one is for survival. It is even called the “reptile brain” because in many ways it resembles the brain of reptiles.

The work of the old mind can be roughly reduced to continuous scanning of the environment in order to answer three questions: can I eat this? can it eat me? can i have this sex? This is all that troubles the most ancient part of the human thought organ. Why is that? Probably, the survival of our ancestors depended on this: to eat, not to be eaten and to continue their kind. So the brains of the first humans, developing in the early stages, paid intense attention to these three topics.

Of course, in the process of evolution, people have developed other abilities (emotions, logical thinking). But the part of the brain that scans the next generation for the three “basic” things remains unchanged and has become a kind of vestige that continues to influence our behavior. This means that you simply do not notice food, sex and danger, no matter how much effort you put into not doing it. Of course, it is not necessary that you begin to interact with everything that comes into your field of vision. For example, you are unlikely to jump on a chocolate cake as soon as you see it (and you are also unlikely to flirt with every pretty woman who walks into the room, or run without looking back from every large dog). But you will notice all these things, whether you like it or not.

A special case of the work of the ancient mind is our perception of color. It has evolved over thousands of years to help our ancestors distinguish edible fruits from their inedible surroundings. As a result, we are all partial to juicy, ripe, liquid fruits and berries. But it so happened that this human passion is not limited to food as such. Analyzing the surrounding space, our ancient brain pays attention to bright things in general, hoping to recognize something edible in them.

The cartoon palette in video games (often found on mobile) is something that we are automatically ready to devote our attention to. Bright, artificial, “glossy” colors attract our ancient minds. In the end, gamers have to put in a lot of effort in order to overcome the urge to continue and get out of the obsessive toy.

Points system
People are always pleased to be ahead of other representatives of the species Homo Sapiens in something. This is natural and does not depend at all on the type of activity: it does not matter whether we are playing a video game or participating in a race. That is why, since the advent of Pac-Man, gamers have been seized with a passionate desire to break records for passing (both their own and someone else’s).

Games in which the scoring system is implemented – Flappy Bird, for example, or the sensational Pokemon GO – give players the opportunity to prove

their own “superiority” and are rapidly gaining popularity with the help of social networks. Gamers share their gaming achievements with great pleasure, but as soon as the “friends” receive this kind of message, they involuntarily begin to want to break this record. A chain reaction occurs:

The scoring system is found on all gaming platforms, but it is most common among casual mobile projects. While extremely straightforward, these games, nevertheless, turn into an endless series of attempts to prove to each other who has sleight of hand, and become super popular, attracting easily gambling players like a magnet.

A love of research
People love to make discoveries. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the exploration of virtual worlds gives gamers simply incredible pleasure.

The most famous example of the gaming community’s relentless love of innovation is World of Warcraft, whose servers, despite their venerable age, are still active. The reason for this is that from time to time the developers release all new additions, in which they give players the opportunity to explore uncharted territories filled with previously unseen content.

The desire to “finish off” the game
And “finish off” – in a good, not “boring” sense of the word. So, having learned the plot of an entertaining RPG, it is very difficult to “quit” it later because of the desire to know how it will end.

This also applies to hardcore projects. The anticipation of an incomparable feeling of satisfaction from passing them makes players show perseverance and perseverance. Dark Souls is an example of true old-school hardcore, with the gaming community ditching arguably the most hours (not to mention the entire series).

Customization and role-playing system
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias due to which people retroactively attribute positive qualities to the object or action they have chosen. Simply put, if a person prefers to use Apple products, then, most likely, he turns a blind eye to its shortcomings and exaggerates its advantages, while underestimating the advantages and exaggerating the disadvantages of products, for example, from Microsoft.

It is for this reason that the ability to create your own character, customize his armor, weapons, as well as, most importantly, choose his lines in dialogues and, in general, influence his behavior – especially if it changes the course of the plot – makes the toy extremely attractive in the eyes of the players. … Gamers begin to think that they are the ones who are in the game right now. That this is their game world, that their virtual protagonist is themselves. As a result, they have a tendency not to see the disadvantages of the game Universe and exaggerate its positive qualities, sitting in it as a result of this all night long.

Physiology
When we consider video game addiction, we tend to refer to psychological factors. However, studies show that physiology is also actively involved in its formation.

In 2005, researchers at Hammersmith Hospital in London found that while playing video games, gamers’ brains doubled in dopamine levels. In short, dopamine is a mood-regulating hormone closely associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness. When we are engaged in any exciting activity (in our case, playing video games), the amount of the “hormone of joy” increases. But as soon as we stop doing it (get out of the game), the level of dopamine begins to plummet.

As a result, the most banal “action-reward” approach is triggered: we want to return to the game in order to feel the rush of this “joyful” neurotransmitter again. In fact, we become addicted, albeit not as thoroughly as in the case of, say, drugs that cause much stronger euphoria and subsequent withdrawal.

Emotional Impact
Several obvious psychological studies show that video games elicit strong emotional responses in gamers: joy, sadness, surprise, hate, excitement, anxiety, fear, and many other emotions. Thus, long-term playtime becomes a life-saving outlet for those who, for various reasons, do not experience the entire palette of emotions in real life (for example, for introverts or simply too busy people).

Of the games that can cause the most diverse emotional reactions, it is worth highlighting The Last of Us, during the passage of which you can equally experience a feeling of affection, and fear, and anger, and joy, and sadness. And all thanks to the great storytelling, excellent design of the in-game world, impeccable development of characters and vigorous gameplay.

Social context
In multiplayer video games, collaboration between players tends to greatly increase the odds of winning. Encouraging mutual assistance, in turn, gives the gameplay an element of sociality: during

gamers can form real friendships – strong social bonds that are difficult for them to get rid of and that encourage them to come back to the game again and again.


Let’s make the results similar. As you can see, there are many reasons why video games are addictive. But can this addiction harm the players? Hardly – it’s too insignificant and weak. So do not be afraid of video games: based on scientific evidence, it is better to have fun in virtual worlds carelessly than, for example, to take drugs or drink alcohol.

There is only one reason to be afraid of video games: they eat up time imperceptibly. Therefore, observe the measure and still do not forget to remember from hour to hour about real life. And then everything will be wonderful for you – both in the virtual world and in the present world.

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