Gaming Addiction – Science and Solutions

– Gaming addiction can turn a fun hobby into a devastating disease. In today’s video, I’m gonna
define gaming addiction, explain some of the causes of it and how some games are designed
to keep people addicted, as well as share a few ways you can use to get yourself out of the addiction, or just ease of a bit, and make
sure you don’t get addicted. Hey, I’m the Improvement Geek, and if you’re new to the channel, and you wanna learn how
to improve your life with the power of science, start now by subscribing to make sure you catch all the new videos I upload every Saturday morning. The World Health Organization
defines gaming disorder as a pattern of behavior
that’s characterized by impaired control over gaming, more priority given to gaming over other activities and interests, and continuation, or
even escalation of gaming despite the occurrence
of negative consequences. There’s bit a debate going on for years about whether it should be considered an actual disease or not. But regardless, it’s indisputable that it actually is a
problem for some people, and I would know because I
used to be one of those people. Starting in 2007, I was
addicted to World of Warcraft and I played between 12 to
16 hours a day on average, and I never really broke
away from my addiction until I started college in 2012. For those who don’t have a
major life event like that, it can be really
difficult to find a reason to change their gaming habits, especially if they’re not even aware of what’s going on in the
first place, like I was. And that lack of awareness
is another symptom of gaming addiction
which can cause a person to start neglecting
their friends and family, their responsibilities and their health. If you wanna learn more about my own story of gaming addiction, then I’ll put a link to the video about it at
the end of this video. So, what makes gaming so
potentially addictive? A common metaphor for
games is a Skinner Box, which is a device that was made
by behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner, to enable him
to perform animal experiments to study operant conditioning, which was his theory that
behaviors that are reinforced are strengthened, and behaviors
that aren’t are weakened. Inside the box is a lever, a
food dispenser and a subject which was usually a rat. Skinner observed if the
subject was rewarded after a consistent
number of lever presses, the behavior will be strengthened
by this reinforcement. But, if the reward stopped being given despite lever presses, the behavior would be weakened
and quickly go extinct, meaning it would stop entirely, which was due to the
lack of reinforcement. However, he notices
this extinction process took longer when he switched to variable-ratio reinforcement, which is where the reward
is given to the subject after an unpredictable
number of lever presses. If this sounds like a slot machine, well, that’s because that’s basically what a slow machine is. We don’t know when
we’re gonna get a payout or even how large of a payout we’ll get, but even though we don’t get
a reward most of the time, we keep wanting to try just one more time because a reward could come from that next push of the lever. Many things in life can be simplified down to a system of actions and rewards. So, games are definitely
not the only thing that can be modeled as a Skinner Box. However, games are kind
of a unique application of that metaphor because game developers have a lot of control
over the actions, rewards, and most importantly, the reinforcement
frequency of their games. These factors can be
fine-tuned by the developers to ensure players will likely
spend more time on the game, and for games with monthly subscriptions, and/or microtransactions, also
spend more money on the game. And many MMO’s, just
like World of Warcraft, are designed to do exactly that. A big part of the game
after you reach max level is upgrading your character’s
gear to make it stronger, but many gear upgrades are obtainable only through a random chance from a certain repeatable activity, which causes players to
have to do the same things over and over again. This keeps players from feeling
like they’ve accomplished everything that they’ve wanted to do in the game too quickly, which means that they’re gonna keep paying that subscription fee
that most MMO’s require, and give the developers more time to develop more content. Unless, of course, the
reinforcement frequency is set too high or too low, which means players are going to give up, get bored and quit playing. Other games have different
ways of keeping people coming back for more. Games like FarmVille and Pokemon GO reward you for logging in everyday. FIFA, Overwatch and many, many other games sell loot boxes to entice
you to pay extra money for the slim chance of getting something rare and/or powerful. Battle royale games like Fortnite and PUBG let you quickly jump into
the next round after you die so you have almost zero
downtime in between games. The first thing I’d recommend to anyone who wants to break themselves
out of a gaming addiction or maybe just spend a
bit less time playing is to ween themselves off gradually. Trying to quit cold turkey will make things much harder on you, and it will make it much more likely that you’re just gonna go
back to your old habits. This is because as the
habit of gaming is built up, our brain increasingly
prioritizes the behavior and the rewards we’re used to getting, or trying to get. Stopping the behavior
also stops the reward and the combination of these
two things being removed will leave you feeling
lost and unsatisfied by anything but the game. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’d also recommend being
intentional about this process and scheduling times
that you can play games, and scheduling times that
you should do other things. This will make sure that you
kinda keep yourself on track and you don’t get lost
in a long gaming session, and kinda undo your progress. To help with this, my second tip is to find
other things you enjoy doing to help fill some of the time you normally spend playing the game. I tried to quit WOW several times during my five year long
period of being addicted, and I even went as far as
trying to sell my account, have someone else change my
password and not tell me, and even ceremoniously
throwing my favorite character off a mountain before deleting it. But I kept finding my way back to Azeroth since I didn’t give myself anything else to do with my time. If you don’t know what else to do, you can start by learning
something creative, you can join a social group
to get you outside more, or even pick up my favorite
hobby which is reading. If you’re looking for a more formal or a more structured approach, cognitive behavioral
therapy has been shown to help with the habits and the symptoms of gaming addiction. Now, don’t worry, you don’t
have to actually go to a therapist to try out CBT for yourself ’cause there’s many at-home
methods that you can use to give it a shot. In fact, I’ll be making a
video about some of those soon to let you know how it works
and what I think about it. However, if you feel like gaming addiction is really impacting your life, please don’t hesitate to
go see a professional. This video probably sounded
like I hate video games, but I’ve been a gamer for most of my life. I mean, come on, I’m the Improvement Geek, of course I love games. But I also have experience
with being in the depths of gaming addiction,
and I really wanna try to help people get out of or prevent them from getting into the same place I was a few years ago. If you enjoyed this video, consider subscribing to catch
the fresh, sciencey goodness I upload every Saturday morning, and I’ll see you in the next one. (upbeat music)

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