Video gaming addiction can control your thoughts, recommendation for further study

A psychology researcher from Canberra has collected some of the first scientific evidence that video gaming can be addictive in a way similar to gambling and alcohol.

"People who spend an excessive amount of time are powerless to stop themselves from thinking about gaming," says Olivia Metcalf, who did the research for her PhD at the Australian National University. "This is a pattern typical of addiction," she says.

"Many people have claimed that video games can be addictive. But this is some of the first hard evidence."

Olivia presented about 20 video gaming "addicts" with different words and asked them to respond to the colour of the word, not the meaning. They were significantly slower to name the colour of gaming-related words compared to words which had nothing to do with gaming. Non-addicted gamers showed no difference in .

"We found that the attention system of an excessive gamer gives top priority to gaming information. Even if they don't want to think about gaming, they are unable to stop themselves. This likely makes stopping or cutting back on gaming even more difficult," Olivia says.

"This phenomenon, known as attentional bias, is found across heroin, , alcohol and , and is thought to be a significant factor in the development of an addiction."

While most people who play video games do so without suffering , a minority of gamers experience significant adverse changes to their diet, sleep, relationships, work and school commitments as a result of their inability to stop gaming. There has been significant debate as to whether or not excessive gaming can be considered an addiction.

Research like hers begins to build the evidence base used to determine whether the behaviour can be classified as an addiction, Olivia says, and helps to develop effective treatments for gamers who are unable to stop.

A forthcoming edition of the standard reference book which defines mental health disorders—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) published by the American Psychological Association—recommends that internet-use addictive disorder, including excessive gaming, be regarded as an area for further study.

Olivia Metcalf is one of 12 early career scientists unveiling their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Australian Government. She is now based in Melbourne.

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Nov 26, 2012
Gaming is addictive on several levels.

1, It's far more engaging than other forms of visual or auditory entertainment (like television, movies, or music/songs). It engages sight, sound, touch, as well as interactive strategic thinking and anticipation.

2, It presents a challenge and appeals to human pride and/or desire to master something, or be the best at it, which is itself addicting.

For the longest time, I couldn't stop thinking about Starcraft: Broodwar. I actually threw Starcraft away on several occasions and quit playing for months or a year at a time, and then somehow started playing it again, 8 hours per day or more.

There is an addictive memory mechanic involved which I can't quite describe, but with me, this does not occur only with video games.

I also had the same problem with the Magic: The Gathering card game. Something in the way you learn to memorize and master the mechanics makes these types of games unforgettable, which in turn makes you think about it more.

Nov 26, 2012
Some of the most addicting games:

PC - Starcraft: Broodwar

Even other gamers used to call Starcraft "Star Crack" because it's that addicting.

Old Console:
Final Fantasy 6
Chrono Trigger

Coin Op:
War: Final Assault
I was very good at this, but I have no idea how much money I spent on this thing. Far, far, far too much to be sure. Perhaps $1000 or more all together.

I find myself playing FF6 and CT on an emulator at least about once or twice per year, even though I've mastered both of them to the fullest extent possible, with the most difficult low level challenges, no equipment challenges, and other handicaps. Why? I don't know. It's just like that. I even used a hack to make the game harder (where most people cheat at games to make them easier).

Gaming addiction was something we joked about even in the late 1990's and early 00's, and yet we all knew it was real, and I knew I was an addict.

It doesn't mean you can't stop, but it takes something else to distract you from it.

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