Associate design editor Ashton Carless is one of many on campus dealing with video game
addiction, a largely undiscussed issue with real consequences.
STORY & ILLUSTRATIONS ASHTON CARLESS
I am addicted to video games. Well, not video games, a video game: Hearthstone. I have been playing this game for two years now, on and off. I have quit multiple times, only to re-download it and get caught up all over again. For many years prior to discovering Hearthstone I played and enjoyed video games with my friends. But what was once harmless escapism has developed into an addiction.
DESPITE BEING VIEWED AS A SIGNIFICANTLY LESS DAMAGING ADDICTION BY MOST, VIDEO GAME ADDICTS SHOW THE SAME SYMPTOMS AS THOSE WITH ANY OTHER UNCONTROLLABLE HABIT.
Video game addicts show the same symptoms as those with any other uncontrollable habit. They develop behavioral hooks, avoid responsibilities, and find it nearly impossible to stop. According to WebMD, “It is a clinical impulse control disorder, an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling.” A national poll of over 1,000 kids determined that 8.5% of those who play video games are addicted, and it is not hard to see why; for many, video games are the perfect way to relax after a stressful school day. But what begins as a simple tension reliever can quickly become a tool for procrastination; I would neglect homework, sleep less, and stop pursuing my other hobbies.
Video games are not only addicting because they relieve stress; they are designed to addict. They provide a constant stream of reward to players, serving as a powerful incentive to keep playing. Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Mark Griffiths says the satisfaction of beating a new level or finding strategies to succeed is a feeling that players can easily get overly attached to. These digital rewards are what foster video game addiction. For me, Hearthstone provided critical thinking challenges. I would stick to my computer for hours, avoiding responsibilities and relationships for easy gratification.
Gaming addiction is often dismissed, but can cause serious harm to those plagued by it. There are numerous reports of gamers developing sleeping disorders and diet-related health issues because they skip meals to spend more time in the game. Migraines, headaches, and fatigue can plague an addict’s life. I was lucky enough to have friends growing up, and was able to develop social skills, but many of those addicted to video games have turned to them after struggling to make friends. CNN reported on a child who had gone through treatment for his video game addiction; from the early age of 10 he started sacrificing friendships for games, crippling his ability to socialize later in life and leaving him with intense anxiety and depression when facing social situations.
This does not mean a total moratorium on the medium is in order. Games are an integral part of our society; cultural icons such as the Mario Brothers and Pac-Man are seen everywhere. We have clubs on campus dedicated to competitive video game playing. 292 million people watch professional gaming regularly and it is gaining popularity at an alarming rate. Tournaments like ones held for Hearthstone players all over the world offer huge cash prizes for winners. Gaming is an extremely popular pastime enjoyed by millions. Even so, SPHS students can attest to having experienced the bad side of the gaming world.
“Because I was playing, I missed assignments,” one junior said. “Yes, I was very much addicted. Speaking from first hand experience, I let my grades plummet because of video games.”
But he has learned to better control his addiction. “I play a healthy amount now, I used to play 4-5 hours a day. Now I play 1-2 hours a day, more so on weekends. Only after I am done with my obligations.”
According to a study performed by Dr. Andrew K. Przybylski of the University of Oxford, 97% of all American teens play video games. The majority will only ever think of it as a fun pastime, but there are those who will give up a social life, grades, other passions to play. Society has to respond to the problem that is video game addiction, and that means approaching the topic seriously. For all the the fun that games can provide, they can also do real and lasting damage.
“I PLAY A HEALTHY AMOUNT NOW, I USED TO PLAY 4-5 HOURS A DAY. NOW I PLAY 1-2 HOURS A DAY, MORE SO ON WEEKENDS. ONLY AFTER I AM DONE WITH MY OBLIGATIONS.”