Game Addiction

What do you think of articles like this comparing videogames to drugs?

Not totally wrong. I think saying it’s like Cocaine is an exaggeration. If you’re familiar with Cocaine, it blocks dopamine receptors, meaning that dopamine gets stuck percolating in the brain. Videogames trigger strong dopamine reactions, so yeah, from brain scans you’re going to have similar results. It’s not literally a drug, but it can be addicting like one.

The addiction here is similar to a gambling addiction, except video games (and social media) are a bit more structured than pure random chance and it’s harder to spot as a negative behavior. You’re getting all these chaotic sources of input, and frequently they’re ones you like. You scroll down your facebook feed, see a lot of random garbage you don’t care about, then you spot a funny video, or a friend posts a status that you have a good response for, then at a later time, maybe a ton of people like your response. These types of positive interactions occur at delayed inconsistent intervals. Social Media and video games allow us to have essentially a concentrated form of these interactions really quickly. It’s like gambling on speed. Refreshing 4chan over and over and finding new threads is similar, it’s like gambling for a good thread.

I had the benefit of growing up in a pre-internet age, but also having the internet develop at the right time in my life to have the benefits of it. It’s going to be very different and very weird from here on out. I didn’t get a game system until the gameboy color in first grade. I didn’t get a gamecube until like 4th or 5th grade. I wasn’t allowed to buy my own game systems even with my own money. I eventually got a Wii and a PS2 slim in like high school, however I’ve never had a TV or computer in my room until I got a laptop, also in high school. I think that a lot of this has spared me from that type of addiction. Also being totally disappointed by MMOs. I seriously gave them a shot. A lot of them. Even ones with subscriptions. They’re boring, and I never made good off my subscription. It’s going to be a lot harder for parents to avoid this type of thing from now on, and a lot harder to judge what’s right for kids.

I have a kneejerk reaction to the whole, “Screens are turning everyone into zombies” thing (I think most of the people reading this blog do), but I’ve experienced the same type of addiction in different places. It’s not totally invalid, but it is still overblown.

Young kids should avoid building a dopamine tolerance, because it fucks up their ability to perform normally. It fucks up their ability to do boring jobs, which is a lot of what the world is unfortunately. That’s School, that’s Work. I have a friend who apparently is writing or wrote a thesis paper on this and let me in on some information about it, because I was proposing educational games that totally double down on taking advantage of typical dopamine behaviors. Dopamine tolerance isn’t an angle I really considered, but it leads to addicting behaviors. Kids will need to be taught the value of hard work and IRL socialization, and that’s tricky.

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