Why Are Video Games Addictive? Three Psychological Reasons

Despite being a relatively harmless and entertaining activity for millions of people around the world, it is safe to say that if video games are played excessively the habit can have a negative impact on one’s life.

Of course, few people would argue that video game addiction is as destructive as alcohol or drug addiction, but just because one problem is not as “severe” as another does not mean that it ceases to be a problem. The damage that comes from online gaming addiction is not so much from the activity itself…but from the time and energy it takes away from personal development in other areas of life.

For example, if a 17-year-old is playing vip168 computer games 40 hours per week, this will most certainly affect how much time he has for his friends (social development), school (educational development), family (interpersonal development), health (physical development) and work (possible career development).

So, why are video games addictive? What is it about massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) in particular that seems to increase the odds of developing unhealthy habits?

1. “Leveling”

A player starting a new MMO or MMORPG will notice that his or her character has very limited abilities, powers, and strengths. However, within a few minutes of play he or she typically is able to “level up” and the character becomes stronger. This reward for minimal effort is very reinforcing and encourages continued play. However, from this point onward each level may take just a bit more time and effort than the previous did to level up. Over time the player is gradually trained to accept the fact that each level will take longer to reach – with later levels taking weeks or months of play to reach.

2. Gathering and Hoarding Instincts

MMOs are designed to appeal to natural human instincts of gathering and hoarding. There are countless stories of harmless hobbies and collections that have turned into obsessions (for example, sports memorabilia collections needing multiple rooms for storage, Beanie Baby collections in the thousands, etc.). On a smaller scale, most people can identify with just how hard it can be to throw things out and purge household clutter. This is a natural human tendency and one that is exploited in MMOs though “achievements” (small rewards for relatively mindless and often very repetitive tasks) and “grinding” (a MMO term used to describe completing an easy but repetitive task (sometimes for hours at a time) in order to level up.

3. Avoidance Schedules

For games that are not played online, or online games that are not part of an evolving game world, when the player is not gaming there are no negative in-game consequences when he resumes. However, the online universe of a MMO continues to evolve 24 hours a day – regardless of whether a particular player is active. If one is not gaming daily, his virtual world may have actually deteriorated due to a lack of attention and resource management. For example, in Ultima Online, a player’s residence will start to decay without regular visits. In Farmville, crops will rot if they are not attended to. Therefore, MMO gaming can be reinforced not only by rewards, but by avoiding punishment.