It may come as a surprise that Computer Gaming Addiction is not even considered an addiction. Whilst computer game addiction has not yet been granted official diagnostic status, many mental health professionals and parents alike are now recognising computer game addiction as a real disorder. Those who are seeing the alarming effects of the excessive amount of time spent playing computer games believe it is just a matter of time before computer game addiction is classified as a compulsive behaviour similar to gambling addiction. The addiction has been described as an impulse control disorder, in that it does not involve the use of an intoxicating drug but is driven by the same desires as those in compulsive gambling.
As technology evolves, games are becoming increasingly complex and detailed. The characters have become more life-like, the latest techniques used to produce visual content have resulted in specialised and highly advanced graphics, and the challenges are more strategic than ever before.
Computer Gaming Addiction and Obsession
Addicted users will isolate themselves, and spend less time engaging with the real world and more time obsessing over obtaining higher rankings, status or achievements in their favourite computer game. The obsession to achieve these goals sees the user ignoring more important responsibilities, and this is especially concerning with school-going children who are having their attention diverted by the excitement of gaming. The lure of the cyber world sees both teens and adults immersing themselves in a virtual reality instead of interacting with friends and family, or partaking in outdoor activities. There is increasing evidence that people of all ages are being drawn into the world of gaming, and many are facing the sometimes severe consequences associated with the compulsive use of video and computer games.
Mobile Gaming Addiction
Compounding this problem was the arrival of the smartphone and other mobile devices like the tablet. Gaming is no longer confined to a desktop computer at home. Mobile devices now allow the user access to their favourite game from any location, and even offer gaming apps which can be downloaded, or come pre-installed with the device. In 1997, Nokia launched a mobile app called Snake (and subsequent variants). It soon became one of the most played video games, played on over 350 million devices worldwide. The Nokia 6110 was launched with a variant of Snake and was the first two-player game for mobiles, making use of the infrared port.
Mobile devices opened up an entire new world for gamers. With the soaring sales of mobile devices, manufacturers rapidly advanced their technology – mobile phone games became increasingly sophisticated, taking advantage of exponential improvements in display, processing, storage, interfaces, network bandwidth and operating system functionality.
Not all gamers are addicts, however. Many people can spend a few hours a week playing their favourite games whilst successfully balancing life outside of their virtual reality. But for some, the uncontrollable compulsion to escape into the fantasy world of gaming overrides their responsibilities and obligations, and the neglect starts showing in various areas of their day to day life. In this way, their addiction is no different to that of a substance abuser. It just so happens that gaming becomes their drug of choice.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process