We all love video games but some disturbing figures have come out to suggest that this is becoming a problem in our society. The timeline of these games makes it easy to see just why this has happened, join us as we take a look.
Back in the eighties, a trip to the arcade meant a social experience with a few friends. Nowadays, users can stay holed up in front of their computers for hours at a time. While some games do have a social aspect, it’s much lesser than what it once was. This can lead to isolation and make users feel like they only have a life within the game.
The average amount of time that we’re spending on games is also rising significantly. The average teenager who games regularly can spend over 20 hours per week playing. Around 72% of all households within the US has a child that plays games regularly and these are just the averages.
The outliers are the 4% of users that spend over 50 hours per week on these types of games. This is an inordinate amount of time to spend on games and leaves little time for much else. When you factor in school or work, these users are simply gaming, working, eating and sleeping. In these extreme cases, the user very often has no time for socialisation, hygiene, self-improvement or studying.
Just like with any other addiction, these users will often become introverted and react negatively to being asked to stop playing. It can be a coping mechanism to allow them to get away from the real world and a threat to that escapism can prove disastrous. Sometimes this can be a symptom of another area of the user’s life in which they are unhappy, like school or in social situations. This may not always be the case though and cannot be applied across the board.
Games are also very rewards driven nowadays, with achievements and competitive play encouraged. This can tap into certain parts of the brain that trigger these rewards, which is similar to the area which is responsible for addiction. These can trigger endorphin rushes which the user can become reliant upon over time.
So what can you do if you are concerned you or a loved one are falling into this trap? Some users are able to cut down at home but others need to cut themselves off from these games entirely by going to an addiction treatment center. One example of a rehab center that specializes in the treatment of many addictions is luxurybeachrehab.com and they’re doing their best to spread the word that video games can also become addictive.
We’ve all heard the arguments that violent video games can have an effect on the user. For the most part, this is largely disproven and deeply flawed but this changes when we look at the chronic user. If you’re playing passively for a few hours a week, the chances are a game won’t have much of an effect on you. If you’re playing 50 hours per week, are sleep deprived and having trouble distinguishing the game from reality then that theory might just hold some water.
As games become bigger and better then that percentage of problem users may well rise too. Innovations like virtual reality could draw them in further to the game and make it even harder to stop playing. The aim of developers is to create an even more realistic environment, which could prove tricky for users to cope with.
At home, it’s down to the user to monitor how much they are playing and pick healthier options. While we’re not going to give up playing games entirely in favour of jogging, it’s healthy to take a break now and then. Some companies, like Nintendo, are even factoring warnings into their games. These go along the lines of telling the user that they’ve been playing for a while, offering to save the game and advising them to have a break. We don’t really know what effects games have on the health of our eyes, mental health or joints as the research just isn’t there to back any of these claims up. What we do know is that it’s better to be safe than sorry and a five minute break could make all the difference in the long run.
As we go through the next year, we’re bound to see gamers getting younger, spending more time on games and struggling with addiction. The first step to recovery is to acknowledge there’s a problem, so take time to think about your own gaming habits.