You’re busy with assignments, the deadline’s closing in, when you’re suddenly alerted by a slight vibration of your phone. You have received a notification, a kind reminder to log in to this game you just started a few days ago. You convince yourself “a few minutes wouldn’t hurt,”. And before you know it, you find yourself chasing to complete that new story mission, farming materials, and praying to RNG-sus for that new “super rare” five star character.
A few minutes turn to hours. Again, you’ve lost track of time. By the time you finally took a look the clock, it’s already 2AM in the morning. You decide to go to bed and leave the assignments for the next day. You know you’ve spent another day procrastinating, but you lock it away in the depths of your mind. What harm can come of it anyway?
Sound familiar? Chances are that you may have developed a bad habit. In a world dominated by technology, game addiction is nothing new. Just a few years back, those facing gaming addiction would have to either play their games at home, or head to the arcade to satisfy their cravings.
Nowadays, with the convenience and mobility brought by the invention of the mobile phone, gaming could never be any more easier. Should you so desire, you’d no longer find it a problem to play games on your mobile phone in places such as the toilet, in the bus, in lecture halls and so on. However, this convenience brings forth an issue that is slowly getting more recognition as a problem of its own; mobile game addiction.
Though not yet recognised as a diagnosable disorder, studies have shown that some gamers exhibit signs that could be characterised as addiction. These signs include impaired control where the user strongly craves for the substance (in this case, to game) and fails to cut down or control their impulses to game, and social problems such as failure to complete tasks at home, work or school.
Other symptoms comprise of feeling restless or irritable when unable to play, bad sleeping habits, constantly thinking about gaming, and intentional isolation from others for the sole purpose of playing games. Additionally, I think it’s important to point out that while mobile gaming is not as harmful as addiction to alcohol or drugs, the brain acts very similarly when it goes without.
As mentioned earlier, with the introduction of mobile gaming, gaming addicts are presented with the ability to bring their games with them wherever they go. This further elevates the severity of gaming addiction because as games go mobile, game addicts would only find it easier to submit to their urge to game more frequently so long as their phone and power bank does not run out of power.
Taking a look from a scientific standpoint, it may be that we find video games so addictive due to the increase of the production of a happy hormone known as dopamine. Dopamine is also well known as a hormone that heavily influences behaviours that motivated by reward. For instance, when we play a video game, we feel a certain high and satisfaction whenever we are able to reach a certain goal or fulfil a mission set by the game. This “high” or satisfaction can be viewed as a reward which becomes our motivation to either play more games or play our games for a longer duration of time.
Over time, the brain produces less dopamine when a said activity is being done, this leading to a need to spend more time with the addiction. It is also due to the lower levels of dopamine production that people tend to feel withdrawal symptoms that may include insomnia, depression, mood swings and the like.
Another reason we find video games so enticing is that it enables its users to experience imaginary worlds and concepts that are usually more enticing than that of real life, this causes gamers to develop a sense of escapism. Paired with mobility, convenience, and an increasing immersive gaming experience that is constantly in development to be delivered to the mass audience via new technology and inventions such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, the potential of mobile gaming is only at its beginnings.
In 2017 alone, it is predicted that there are over 2.2 billion gamers across the globe expected to have generated about $108.9 billion with mobile games generating a whopping 42% of the global market. These figures are only expected to increase in the coming years. To understand further about mobile game addiction, I’ve found a very handy infographic that I find, summarises the topic of mobile addiction very well:
Mobile gaming however isn’t all bad as it is portrayed to be here. Other than being a medium that brings in big bucks to support the gaming industry, mobile games also provides us with a multitude of benefits such as a source of entertainment, stress relieve, better hand-eye coordination and many more. In the end, I feel that it all boils down to user to decide to abuse it or not as the golden rule to many aspects in life always leads back to moderation.
Have a friend that’s addicted to gaming? Here’s an article we’ve written with some additional tips on how to overcome obsession with games:
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