Informal investigation of video game addiction reveals  OCT 25 2005

Informal investigation of video game addiction reveals that it burns bright and fast but stops suddenly. I've noticed the suddenly vanished compulsion with my game playing as well. (via rw, i think)

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Clive Thompson   games   video games

There are 16 reader comments

Dan Bruno40 25 2005 3:40PM

I did the same thing with World of Warcraft. Thank God, too, because getting addicted to a MMMMMMMOOOORRRPUG! is a hit on your social life and your wallet.

mistercharlie43 25 2005 4:43PM

thank god for that. i have too many feelings of guilt for the time wasted for anything over an hour or so. after decades of gaming, i finally found a way to potentially make it pay off - check out the my www.videogameblog.org . i can't wait to see the look on my accountant's face when i pass him $1200 worth of electronic boutique receipts.

J.Cormier47 25 2005 4:47PM

I was just about to say approximately the same thing...

When it comes to MMORPGs, it seems like there's this initial burst of obsession, and then, when you come up for air after a while, you stop playing as much, and suddenly you realize that despite the driving desire to the contrary, you don't really *need* to master that profession or reach that level or get that item, because it's not *real*.

This happened to me with Star Wars Galaxies, which I played for a few months and then stopped. I now have a copy of WoW lurking in my bag, waiting to be installed...I wonder if it's worth the inevitable bell curve of rising joy and crashing disaffection.

eric n.59 25 2005 4:59PM

My Nintendogs all suffer from the fleas of neglect. Clouds of soot follow them when they walk, suffer.

The one game from this year that has kept my attention until the end of the game is "Katamari Damacy" (#1, original).

Stephen Collins33 25 2005 5:33PM

For me its a matter of knowing that there might not be too much going on for a few weeks, maybe. And I use the opportunity to get in some good gaming, but then drop it when I get busy again.

r. vaca56 25 2005 5:56PM

I'd generally agree with you.

However, that doesnt explain why I still get re-addicted to Diablo II, play it feverishly, drop it suddenly but then repeat that cycle in a year or two.

Jack23 25 2005 6:23PM

Indeed. It still pops up every now and then in me, but in college Tetris was crazy-there, and then suddenly gone. Ditto with Star Raiders and Bite Monster (Pac Man Atari 800 Clone). When I was a teen.

But has there ever been a study of Everquest and divorce rates? That's a partial joke, but based on 100% reality.

Stephen37 25 2005 6:37PM

I'm with r. vaca on this one; I have sporadic bursts of addiction to games but my cycle repeats every six weeks or so. I'll go through periods when besides work and sleep, I'll play GTA or The Sims or SimCity or Gran Tourismo non-stop, but always one game. In non-addiction times, I play a little of a few games or none at all.

Nels44 26 2005 1:44AM

I'll bet that the video game addiction cycle goes something like this:

1. You start playing a game, and your body starts goin' nuts: releasing endorphins and adrenaline because of the excitment of the stimulation to your senses and the challenge it poses to your faculties.

2. Eventually, at least one of two things happens: your body becomes accustomed to the elevated levels of stimulant chemicals, and the "fix" that the video game provides becomes less effective, and less appealing than the challenge of it. (The game is too difficult, and its challenge outlives your body's addiction to the game's stimulus.) Or, you quickly beat/master the game and its diminished challenge provides less of a thrill than before. (The game is too easy, ergo it becomes boring. This happens quite frequently, to me anyway.)

3. So, after putting the game away for a time, you may come back to it (although if the game was too easy, this seems unlikely). Since adrenaline and endorphins are not stimulants foreign to your body, but instead chemicals native to your own metabolism, and are are well suited together, it is easy for your body to quickly "recover" from the brief stimulant "addiction". This means that when you go back to a challenging game, you will experience much the same addictive rush as you did when you played it the first time, and the addiction cycle begins all over again.

Maybe this is analagous to love, in that love is a chemical addiction that your body "recovers" from relatively quickly. At least, in most guys anyway.

minxlj43 26 2005 7:43AM

I'm a long-time fan of Final Fantasy etc on the Playstation/PS2 so I've been addicted to games for a long time - however, I find my 'addiction' i.e. need to play the games is linked to my workload. I REALLY REALLY want to play the games, but I have so much damn work to do I don't have a life any more (sob, cue the violin)

But, my lovely fiance went and bought me the Nintendo DS and Nintendogs at the weekend as a surprise, and I'm addicted again, cos now I can play while I'm commuting to and from work - ideal!

Alex Dorph12 26 2005 8:12AM

Lol im not addicted, I can stop at any time. I just chose to play 5 hours of quake a day.

R2000
Bathroom Review

Overworm32 26 2005 8:32AM

Hello, my name is Overworm.

I am a video game addict.

I've been clean for five years now.

I don't really feel much of an urge to play anymore. Not much.

Thank you.

ess35 26 200511:35AM

Another vote for the "sporadic" addict. Right now I'm trying to figure out if I'll use Xmas or Thanksgiving to lock myself up in the house for a five-day binge.

I've never been able to play an hour or two a night like a lot of my friends do. Gotto go whole hog for a weekend, at least.

I'm fairly active, so I don't think a body high has much to do with it (what's sitting on my ass for hours of artificial mayhem compared to a two-hour yoga class or four hours on young horses, endorphin-wise?). For me, gaming is all about the escape.

Escape and my hatred of cut scenes.

zach54 26 200512:54PM

I'm addicted to games too. For me, the game of the day is BF2. I play it for hours every day, and yet, while I play it, I find myself reaching levels of frustration and anger that I NEVER reach when in the real world. The author of the Wired article hit the nail right on the head when he said you notice flaws in game design and mechanics. I have come to realize that the Battlefield series is riddled with these things, as well as very, very poor design oversights and decisions. This results in about 50% fun, and 50% total frustration. Maybe 30/70 to be honest.

One day I will stop and never go back. I quit smoking after 13 years of unchecked addiction to ciggarettes, cold turkey, and have not had so much as a drag in probably going on 4 years now. I also quit drinking sodas in the same way. I play to do the same with videogames, but it has to happen from the inside... that switch has to be flipped, after which it will stay on forever (or off).

AAAAAAAnyway, gonna go shoot some insurgents.

Wish me luck,
zach

Mark M. Smith09 26 2005 1:09PM

I've definitely noticed this behavior time and time again not only in myself, but also my girlfriend. Typically though I don't find that I become bored with a game, it's just that something else happens, e.g. I beat it, a new game comes out and demands my attention, I get bogged down in some other aspect of my life. Once there is an interruption I drop out and the fix is usually broken. Similar obsessions can crop up in other areas of my life (e.g. a greater focus on hi-fi broken only once I purchase some new equipment and sate my lust), but none are as persistant and recurrant as with gaming.

Thus while the other hypotheses are somewhat interesting I find that it functions more as an addiction that requires feeding to maintain. I'm only obsessed as long as I can continue playing, but shift my focus and suddenly it's gone... just waiting to return again at some later time.

Now, I must be off to pick up a copy of Civilization IV and lose the next few weeks of my life. If it's anything like the previous iterations I'd probably be safer just spending $50 on crack instead.

wah17 26 2005 3:17PM

Now, I must be off to pick up a copy of Civilization IV and lose the next few weeks of my life. If it's anything like the previous iterations I'd probably be safer just spending $50 on crack instead.

You don't get high scores for smoking crack. Which is about the only difference between it and Civ IV. I might have destroyed my brother's marriage by mentioning to him that it was coming out this week. Looks awesome.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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