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Are you old enough to remember PONG? Do you remember how exciting it was to move the wall and see the ball bounce? Do you think Thomas Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann had any idea what future video games would look like when in 1947 they filed the patent for their cathode-ray tube amusement device?
Last year the digital gaming industry brought in $61 billion in revenue (yes, that is Billion with a B). The world of video games has seen a dramatic change from the simple Pong Game and Atari game sets of the 70’s to today’s interactive world of gaming. Did you notice how many commercials during the Super Bowl were for video games? Today, everybody seems to be gaming; from young kids playing Minecraft, to teenagers gaming Call of Duty and including Mom playing Panda Pop on her smart phone.
Have you ever said, “My kids are addicted to their Nintendo and I am worried about them.” Well, you are not alone. Many research studies results indicate people are exhibiting addictive behaviors with video games. Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University research psychologist, found 8.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 “addicted” to video games. The symptoms he defined as indicating “addicted” gaming included spending increasing time playing, irritability caused by reduced playtime, escaping problems through play, skipping homework, and stealing money to purchase games. Another study found 41% of people who play video games admitted that they played computer games as an escape and 7% said they could not get through the day without playing.
The truth is, developers of video games specifically look for formats that encourage repeated play. Developers create games that pique a player’s curiosity; for example, what does the next level bring. On-line gaming designs provide a sense of team membership; that is, belonging to a community. The games also provide rewards for playing that encourages continued play.
So why do all ages become so “addicted” to playing video games? Again looking at the research, one of the main reasons is the social aspect. People feel an obligation to play at times, even when they do not want to, due to an expressed expectation that they must support their online friends. Kids want to be able to share with the friends their accomplishments on a video game. Some games appeal to our natural hoarding and gathering instinct. The ability to collect virtual items in games motivates us to play to accumulate them. Lastly, video games provide a place to hide from our problems.
But, when does this become a problem? The impairment in daily functioning is one of the key factors considered when looking at a psychological malady. There are many ways that daily functioning can be impaired. Questions to ask are: Has the gaming had a negative effect on schoolwork? Have academic grades fallen? Are personal interactions or friendships affected? Have you noticed a higher level of anxiety or aggressive behavior? Has gaming replaced time with the family? Does reducing the time spent gaming have a negative effect on the gamer’s general attitude? Have you noticed an increase in ineffective time management? Is gaming used as a means of avoiding solving problems?
The term “addicted” is put in quotes because addiction is far-reaching, complicated topic. The definition of a healthy level of gaming verses an unhealthy level is still the matter of much discussion and research. One fact is the gaming industry is not going anywhere, and each year sees an expansion of its influence.
So, if you or you kids are struggling with spending excessive time playing video games, continuing to play despite negative consequences, are having problems in school or work or are withdrawing from life, it is time to find help. Seek out help from a counselor, a support group, or your Pastor to help you understand if the gaming has grown to a problem level.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13
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