Professor Merrill Charles
TRF 235 Media Industries Principles and Practices
2 March 2011
Video Game Addiction In Teens
People are introduced to video games at, most of the time, a very young age. For some people, playing video games is simply a leisure activity. For some people it is a hobby, and some people even stop playing video games after a particular age. However, there are those who do not stop playing video games once they start, which is very common in teenagers. It becomes an obsession, and can unfortunately become addictive. While video game addiction has not been defined as an actual disease, studies estimate 10-15% of gamers demonstrate symptoms that meet the World Health Organization’s measures for addiction.
Video games are becoming increasingly multifaceted with more realistic characters, better graphics, and more tactical challenges than they used to. These video game advances in turn, make gaming more addictive. One who is addicted or the parents of an addicted teen must be able to recognize his/her video game compulsion before being able to help oneself.
Video gaming becomes an addiction when it begins to impede upon a person’s relationships or their objective to achieve specific goals such as succeeding in school or contributing to a sports team. For teenagers, sometimes life can be a struggle. As people experience an immense amount of changes physically and emotionally throughout their teenage years, many teenagers find it compelling to enter their own virtual world where they do not have to deal with the challenges of the “real world.”
Video games are designed to be just challenging enough for players to be able to achieve small feats that force them to continue to play. Game designers are always searching for more ways to make their games more fascinating to increase the amount of time people spend playing them. In turn, video games are almost designed to be addictive in the sense that designers want players to want to keep playing and buying their games.
There are several details implemented into games with the aim of making them addictive including the high score, in which beating the highest score can keep a player playing for hours. Other addictive implements in video games include role-playing, which allows the players to create the characters in the game and embark on a journey specific to the character(s) the player creates. Another is the stimulation of discovery, such as shortcuts or other hidden findings.
Considering video game addiction has not been given an official diagnosis, there are signs to look for to discover and prove of a teen’s gaming fixation. Symptoms of video game addiction in teens include preoccupation, hiding from negative or uncomfortable feelings or situations, and/or denial. Also, spending an excessive amount of money on video games or video game-related equipment, feelings of guilt. Gaming having a negative impact on other areas of life, in which a person may neglect his/her relationships between family and friends, grades dropping, and in extreme cases, neglecting one’s personal hygiene are other symptoms. Teens who are questionably addicted to gaming may only need to demonstrate two or three of these many symptoms to be considered addicted.
Fortunately, for those teens that are addicted, there are methods of treatment to use in order to cure their video game dependence. A video game addiction should be treated nearly the same way as any other type of addiction. Like other addicts, gamers often use video games (the substance) in order to avoid the problems in their lives. Video games offer an especially appealing escape to socially disturbed teenagers who find it intriguing to become engrossed in a world in which they have complete control. Teens who are addicted to the virtual world may never have had, or have lost the ability to easily and comfortably communicate with people face-to-face. Since they have spent most of their time in virtual reality, they are extremely uncomfortable dealing with situations in the real world. Socially awkward or timid teens are more likely to become addicted to video games than those who are actively involved in real world activities such as an afterschool sport or club.
A treatment program or a therapist who specializes in adolescent issues would be a great place to start. Enrolling in some sort of camp or outside activity will also force a video game addicted teen to step out of his/her comfort zone and be put into a situation where one has no choice but to face reality. This will allow addicted teens to fill their time with confidence and social skill building activities rather than being infatuated with an imaginary world. However, it is very important to choose the right program or therapist, so research would be required before devoting oneself to a specific treatment.
Though the dispute as to whether or not gaming addiction is an actual disorder continues, the behavior evidently exists. As video games continue to advance technologically, they become more addictive, especially for teens that suffer from social awkwardness. Teens who use video games as an escape from their problems in reality and possess the symptoms of an addicted gamer should recognize their problem and reach out for help whether it be a therapist or a treatment program. Although video game addiction persistently increases among teens, it is possible to overcome the addiction as long as one is willing to overcome it. The combination of the inclination some teens have to addictive behaviors and designers deliberately programming addictive games proves that video game addiction is a real issue, in which parents, friends, teachers, etc. should take action to avert and be cautious of.
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