It’s not difficult to understand the appeal of video games. First of all, there’s power. Most children and teens do not feel they have much control over their world.
They are generally told what to wear and eat, when to go to sleep and wake up, how to spend most of their day (in school, duh), and even who their friends should be.
In a video game, the child is in control, whether they’re competing in a battle royale, mastering guitar licks, or leading a Horde raid on the Alliance.
The Appeal of Gaming
Above all, there’s the excitement. A good game will get your pulse racing and your adrenaline pumping, even if you’re just sitting on the couch holding a controller.
Games with a time component amplify this excitement, even in simple games like Jewel Quest where you’re down to one second before everything blows up because you didn’t find the three matching gems.
Another lure is that most games have skill levels. They start simple so anyone can play, but increase in difficulty as the player improves their game. This sucks the player into the game and gives them a sense of accomplishment, making it hard to stop playing.
I’m sure you’ve heard something to the effect of, “But Mom, I was just about to reach level 60 and get a new set of armor!” after telling the kids it’s time for dinner.
Arguably the most addictive games, though, are the ones that have no end. These are generally the massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft. It’s not just about beating an opponent and moving on to the next one.
Players often have multiple types of characters and have to perform certain tasks in order to get better gear or other rewards. They will also work together in groups with other players around the world.
Raiding parties are scheduled days in advance, and players are downgraded or denigrated by their fellow players if they don’t show up and play for the entire sequence, which can sometimes take hours.
On the other hand, games like Fortnite and GTA V have taken advantage of online play to move away from the conventional one-player “mission” gameplay. Players will now compete for supremacy with friends or with other players around the world.
Upon the completion of a particular game, the player can immediately join another and try again to be victorious.
Attitudes of Parents
Many parents view gaming as a relatively harmless addiction when compared to the dangers of the real world. When they’re home, we know what they’re doing and who they’re playing with (well, sort of). But video game addiction can ruin lives. Children who play four to five hours per day have little time for socializing, doing homework, or playing sports.
Kicking the habit is hard, too. Video game and computer addicts can’t just avoid computers. They need to use them for homework and communication with friends. It’s like putting an alcoholic in a bar and saying, “Just have one drink.” Parents need to set strict limits and monitor usage. That means the computer or game systems need to be out in the living room or wherever there are other family members present.
Most importantly, though, parents should help their kids find alternatives to video games. Try to get them to participate in sports, join the school band or an afterschool club, or just play outside with the neighbors. Don’t be afraid of the words, “I’m bored.” The truth is, if they get bored enough, they’ll find something to do. You can always offer to give them some extra chores!
Because many perceive excessive gaming to be a relatively harmless addiction, most families don’t seek out the help they may need. Times are changing, however.
The World Health Organization (WHO) made the landmark decision to include gaming disorder in its upcoming diagnostic manual. It is hoped that proper recognition of gaming addiction will help families find appropriate treatment for the affected individual.
The consequences of failing to intervene early in cases of true gaming addiction can be considerable. For instance, children who are impulsive or those who struggle with face-to-face interaction are more likely than their peers to be sucked into excessive gaming.
However, retreating into video games can ultimately worsen underlying problems, including poor social skills (1). The more these issues grow, the further the gaming addict escapes into the alternate reality offered by video games.
Harmful patterns of gaming behavior tend to get more embedded the longer they continue. Seeking treatment can also help to uncover and address other possible mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Although not every gaming addict struggles with underlying mental health disorders, it has been found that affected individuals are considerably more likely than their peers to suffer from one of these three disorders.
Seeking out help early helps gaming addicts get to the root of their problems and assertively address them. Putting mental health first in adolescents is incredibly important if they are to grow into happy and well-rounded individuals.